Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tiger Daylilies

Tiger Daylilies on June 26th

Tiger Day Lilies on June 29th
 In just the last few days, the tiger daylilies in our yard have started to bloom. The plant’s vivid orange blooms are brightening yards and roadsides on the East, West and North Coasts - - and everywhere in between.

Researching this lovely plant shows the confusion that common plant names cause. My friend Don Stauffer, an excellent Master Gardener, calls the plant a “tiger lily.” I thought it was called simply a “daylily.” The plant is also called a “tawny daylily” or a “ditch lily.”

According to a blog post by James McInnis, the scientific name for the tiger daylily, Hemerocallis fulva, means “beautiful for a day.” Each bloom on the flower’s stem opens in the morning and lasts for just a day.

The same flower patch on Monday July 1st!  Note the wilted blooms that have already lasted for just a day.

However, each stem has many blooms. A patch of the plants will bloom for several weeks.

The tiger daylily came from Asia. In reading cooperative extension fact sheets found online, there is not a consensus on how the plant reached the United States. One explanation, also dismissed as a “legend,” is that the sea captains transplanted the flowers from Asia and brought them home to their wives. Another source said the plant came to the United States with English colonists.

Regardless of how the tiger daylily got here, it is a vivid and delightful presence. The mass of long green leaves, topped by scores of orange flowers, is a perfect expression of the vigor and bounty of mid-summer.

I love the orange of tiger daylily blooms. On Staten Island, we used to see the blooms on back roads throughout the Island’s pine-oak forests. The orange was an appealing contrast to the shade and forest greens.

When you find daylilies on a roadside or in a remote, undeveloped place, it takes thoughts back to summers past. You might wonder what the place looked like when the flowers were first planted. You may also wonder who planted the flowers and what happened to them. Did they move West or move into a city?

Tiger daylilies in Winchester, Ct. 
Photograph courtesy of Seth Edelman

Deer will heavily graze tiger daylily shoots as the snow is melting.  In Virginia, my friend Steve Jaffe finds the deer wipe out his daylilies; in my backyard, the plant grows so exuberantly that it bounces back from the deers' attentions.

The vigorous growth that outlasts the deer can be a delight - - or a curse. They are likely to spread rapidly and take over. Some gardeners suggest planting them in places that are not likely to be used for other plants or in poor soil where nothing else will grow.

My friend, Seymour, sees flowers in Los Angeles florists that look like the tiger daylily. It also appears there are tiger daylily look-alikes that bloom longer than the original plants do - - or bloom in different colors.

Long lasting lilies are beautiful. They were the main flower at our wedding and brighten up a trip trudging around the supermarket when the weather is less temperate.

But seeing a flash of bright orange tiger lilies by the road for a week or so is an iconic view of mid-summer.  It happily reminds me of my wedding and sustains me through August heat or January cold.

No comments:

Post a Comment