Year’s prior to the arrival in Ontario of Jamaicans, Tamils and others, another ethnic group of similarly fractions repute immigrated here. Despite prejudices that today would by regarded as politically incorrect to say the least, the Irish flourished. So did their prejudices. Even today, the orange daylily is known in some quarters as King Billy’s or, especially in southwest Ontario, as the Twelfth of July Lily. This is because the unfortunate flower has the habit of blooming about the same day that forces of the Protestant King William III were victorious at the Battle of the Boyne.
Maud Montgomery, writing in Anne’s House of Dreams (1922), records that
the same orange daylilies were flowering in the August sun of Prince Edward
Island around the gate of her heroine’s residence on that bucolic haven now
infested with potatoes and politicians. Frances
Ya-sing, discussing Chinese landscaping opined in 1988 “different species of
orchids, day lilies, lily turf, and ferns with graceful, drooping leaves are
extensively planted in rock and plant composition as an unfailing transitional
feature that integrates rocks to each other and the ground.”
More prosaically they have, at least until recently, found use in Chinese
traditional medicine although now authorities in the Celestial Kingdom say this
may be unsafe. The plant is claimed
to be carcinogenic so perhaps it would also be best to ignore rural recipes for
the pickled flower buds and similar delicacies from alternate living advocates.
daylilies are Hemerocallis. Our
familiar orange species is H. fulva and its yellow cousin H.
lilio-asphodelus. There are, according to the American Hemerocallis Society (PO
Box 586, Woodstock Illinois 60098), a total of 15 species and awe-inspiring
garden centre owner was recently protesting the plethora of new hybrids.
This writer retorted that he, of Canadian and South African parentage,
educated and edificated in England, was also a hybrid.
It is a horticultural fact, of course, that hybrids are often superior to
species, at least in some gardeners’ eyes.
Certainly the advances made in daylily tend to support this view.
True, each flower only last a single day, but modern cultivars flower
over much more prolonged periods, displaying a symphony of colours.
As an additional bonus, there is superb scent.
And to the delight of city gardeners often pressed for space there are
even miniature forms available, such as the delightful ‘Stella de Oro,’
which won the supreme award of daylily fanciers, the Donn Fisher Memorial Cup as
long ago as 1979.
Toronto gardeners swear Stella de Oro performs remarkably well in shade.
It certainly flourishes in the full sun of the Harbour Front parks,
blooming over very extended period. The
price of this little gem at local garden centres is modest, much more so than
many other more modern introductions. It
is always amusing to hear the gasps of the uninitiated at the Canada Blooms show
when they encounter that major Canadian hybridizers.
We’re in the Hayfield Now (4704 Pollard Rd, RR#1, Orion, Ontario L0B
1M0). Closer to home is Brian
Bloye’s collection of some 700 different daylilies at 28 Grovenest Dr in
Scarborough. They may be viewed,
along with his hostas, the last three Sundays of July or, at other times, by
classic book on the plant comes from the prolific keyboard of Vermont nurseryman
and gardener Lewis Hill with his wife Nancy.
Story of Pownal, Vermont 05261 published Daylilies: The Perfect
Perennial a decade ago. This
formerly major garden book publisher of late has adopted a veil of silence to
entreaties for information so we can only hope that this and other excellent
books by the same author remain in publication.
1827, the catalogue of William W. Custard’s Toronto Nursery, on ‘Dundas
Street, near York,’ printed by ‘William Lyon Mackenzie, Printer to the House
of Assembly’ offered the yellow day lily at one shilling each, an amount no
doubt regarded as scandalous in its day as do modern viewers of Hemerocallis
hybrids. They were and are sadly
behind the times.