A day of beauty... but it's worth it; GARDENS Flowers that last for just one day? That could never catch on. But it has, these plants are the No1 perennial in the UK and US.
IN THIS delightfully floriferous year, everything seems to be doing its best, each plant trying to outcompete its neighbours or at least outdo its own previous performance.
In the brick garden, some of the most visible flowers recently have been our daylilies. I've deadheaded regularly, every day if I could, to keep it looking as fresh as possible. Hemerocallis are usually known as daylilies because each new flower opening early in the morning will be fading by evening.
A flower that only lasts one day? That could never take off. But it has. There are thousands, if not tens of thousands of hemerocallis.
So what makes the day lily the number one perennial both in Britain and America? There are many answers to the question. Although flowers last only a few hours, each is exceedingly beautiful.
Hemerocallis is derived from the Greek and means beauty of the day.
Each head of flowers contains several blooms. Established clumps may yield tens of flower stems and the display may last upwards of a month. There are a few known as remontant that flower for a second time later in the season.
The variety of flower shape and colour is seemingly infinite. Each year excited addicts offer a plethora of new cultivars for registration. Most years more than 3,000 new images appear on the American Hemerocallis Society website.
Flower colour embraces the entire spectrum with the exception of true blue and pure white, no mean feat when you consider the limited range of the species - almost exclusively yellow with an odd yellowish red and occasional pink. The bi and tri-colours developed over the last few years create the promise of a kaleidoscopic future as aficionados try to outdo one another.
The variety of markings and patterns within the petals is mindboggling. Complexity doesn't end there and there is a highly considered classification of flower shape. Flowers can be circular, triangular, star, informal, ruffled, flat, recurved, trumpet or spider.
Only the addicts get ensconced in this kind of detail. What most of us want to know is why we should give day lilies house room, or at least garden space, which varieties to grow and how to grow them successfully.
On a scale of one to 10, hemerocallis score 11 for ease of cultivation. They are virtually indestructible. Hardy certainly within the range of temperatures they are liable to experience within the British Isles, they are born survivors.
Perfectly at home in our heavy clay here at Glebe Cottage, they will thrive in a wide range of soils including lighter, sandier soil and even in these situations most have come through periods of prolonged drought with flying colours.
No doubt this resistance to dry conditions is due to their root systems where long, fleshy roots often develop small tubers. These roots act as storage organs for nutrients and water. As well as adapting to a range of conditions, daylilies fit in well in a wide variety of gardenscapes, from classic herbaceous borders to wild naturalistic schemes.
In the latter scenario - in gardens like Glebe Cottage - species and hybrids close to them are the most suitable, their informality creating a lighter touch and mingling more happily with other perennials and grasses than those with big, fancy flowers. Hemerocallis are enduring, too - sometimes plants put in by the Victorians are in great shape.
They are hungry and need fertile soil to support all those big strapping leaves and stems of flowers.
Plant them from pots in spring or autumn and from division in autumn, too, preparing their site well with plenty of organic matter. Ensure that roots of divisions are not bent or folded and that planting holes are deep enough. Plant firmly. Water in well and mulch.
All hemerocallis come from Asia where the great majority inhabit grassland sites, often mountain meadows.
They need sunshine and an open position to flourish and flower well.
Cultivars like the classic "Stafford", with its warm mahogany petals lit with yellow, need similarly hot colours close by, lots of warm yellows, brick reds and terracotta. Rudbeckia, coreopsis, zinnias, ratibida, and dark cosmos, a calendula or two and plenty of zingy green from euphorbias and fresh blades of grass. Paler daylilies are often at their best in the late afternoon and evening - many of them exude sweet scent and are visited by nectar-hungry moths.
It's tempting to overdo it when they're so easy. The great gardener Christopher Lloyd warned against planting too many, so restrain yourself. The simple beauty of the pale fresh flowers of hemerocallis lilioasphodelus on an early summer morning, its gentle perfume filling the air is unalloyed joy.
Even deadheading them becomes a pleasant task.
ASK CAROL QI'VE overwintered my begonias and planted them out in window boxes, but they haven't put on much growth.
Emily Richardson, by email AIF these are fibrous-rooted begonias they may be in need of a boost. Replace the compost if you didn't do so, or at least top up the boxes with loam-based compost. Water well but also give them a feed from time to time with a liquid fertiliser.
QHOW can I cut down watering my dry garden? Gina Browne, via email AORGANIC matter applied as a mulch will help retain moisture and eventually improve the water retention of your soil. Compost, old muck or bark in a thick layer will all do the job, but the best mulch is always plants... plant thickly so leaves shade the soil and retain moisture, creating a micro-climate.
Healthy begonias in full bloom
Plant a busy border
Pair your daylilies with, from left, rudbeckia, ratibida, zinnias and euphorbia
The variety of flower shape and colour of daylilies seems infinite, right, and far right