As strange as it sounds, my secret garden is a daylily garden. This doesn’t mean I am a closet daylily enthusiast, quite the opposite. It started a couple of years ago when my wife, Jan, said the side of our house was an embarrassment, and we needed plants. To be honest it was rather a sort of Garden Guy Gulley.
In the backyard there are French drains to move water out — and by out, I mean it flows down the side yard, the area of Jan’s discontent. Side yards by their nature are often problem areas. What do we do?
The main considerations are: Is it seen from the street side and your neighbors? And the most important criteria of all, is it a thoroughfare where you, friends and family get from point A to point B, like front yard to the backyard? Mine was none of the above, and to make this lost weed patch with drainage issues worse, it is also the location for the air conditioner unit.
Absurdly, this is my best area for sun and soil, except dead center where the water flows downhill. So two years ago I began planting Rainbow Rhythm daylilies like Orange Smoothie, Sound of My Heart and Storm Shelter. I added Fluffy arborvitae for evergreen interest and to eventually be a foil or screen for the air conditioner unit.
I also planted some Bloom-A-Thon repeat blooming azaleas and a couple of Camellia sasanquas. By the end of summer, Jan said, “Why are you doing that, no one can see it?” Please don’t tell her I wrote that in this column.
This year I added new Unplugged Pink salvia, which debuts next year along with Rockin salvias and some Truffula Pink gomphrena. I also added 10 more daylilies. They represent informal drifts of five each of Rainbow Rhythm King of the Ages and Rainbow Rhythm Lake of Fire. Both are like thoroughbred racehorses with tall, big foliage strong scapes or flower stalks and enormous blooms. My first bloom of 2021 was Lake of Fire, and if the garden was compared to basketball, it is full of double doubles and triple doubles from the daylily participants.
Then the killer: I added river rock down the center of the drainage area. A couple of passes with bags of rocks on a hand truck had me near cardiac arrest so I borrowed neighbor Dave’s trailer to attach to my lawn mower. That made the move much easier, but by the end of the project I was on hands and knees as the back was screaming.
But I love the new secret garden and have also added a few coneflowers, and Red-Hot Pokers, too.
There are now 11 selections to choose from in the Rainbow Rhythm series of daylilies. They all look like competition quality, which brings up an important point. The next few weeks all across the country the local chapters of the American Hemerocallis Society will have daylily shows, and most likely provide educational programs. These are normally fun events for the whole family.
Until then, know that daylilies are easy to grow, requiring at least six hours of direct sunlight each day for best performance. Best results are obtained from raised beds rich in organic matter. My fertile soil has good drainage and seems to be perfect.
Perhaps you haven’t tried daylilies because the flowers only last a day. Remember, each scape or flower stalk has many buds as I mentioned above and these open in a series, giving you beauty for not only days but also weeks and even months as they repeat.
This I know, my wife was right, our side yard was an embarrassment and now has been transformed into my secret garden.
Rainbow Rhythm daylilies and a baker’s dozen of pollinator-friendly perennials has me searching out the next addition, old teak chair or bench. I promise I’ll have my camera in hand.