THE DAYLILY flower is composed of six segments, commonly called petals, and in the cup or trumpet thus formed you will find six long curved filaments, each one bearing a quantity of yellow, orange or brownish dust, which is the pollen or sperm of the flower.
There is a seventh filament, in the center of the bloom, but instead of having dusty pollen at the tip, it has a sticky fluid, and this is the flower's pistil. If pollen is rubbed or brushed on to this sticky tip, either by insects or the gardener (or any other agency) a seed pod will result.
On several occasions, having nothing better to do, I crossed a number of daylines, taking the pollen from one garden variety and applying it to the pistil of another variety. Within a month or so the pods, which promptly form in a matter of a few days, ripen and open. You do not want the seeds to drop out, loose on the ground, so you keep an eye out and pick the pods before the seeds are lost. The pods turn brownish and open slightly, and that is when you get your seeds.
They can be planted immediately, or kept until spring. They can be planted in pots or boxes or in rows in the garden like spring onions; but once they sprout they should be thinned to give each plant enough space to get on in the world. They may be thinned more than once - it depends on your preference - but eventually they should be a foot apart in all directions.
Seeds planted this spring will bloom in June-July of 1979, or a year later. It depends on how well grown they are. Seeding plants given full sun, frequent light cultivation, plenty of water, will of course come on more quickly than the same plants grown in a lot of shade with less attention to culture.
My own slightly subversive view, which I do not share with the daylily society, is that all daylilies are properly yellow; between primrose and sulfur. But of course I grow red and pink and orange and ivory ones too, and the lovely cantaloupe-colored kinds. But the yellows are the best, to my mind.
It is a simple matter, with a few standard varieties (which need not be new and expensive sorts) to apply pollen from new and rare sorts, and the resulting flowers, two years later, will be good enough to suit almost any gardener.
The best time of the day to apply the pollen is about 6 or 7 in the morning, since the pollen dries hard in the heat of noon, and a surprising assortment of creatures show up during the day to collect it. Also, bumblebees and wasps - it does strike me I have more than any other gardener in the world - are not so active in the early morning. While they do no harm, either to daylilies or me, they quite destroy my composure. I do not think it is right to go about spraying them, especially since it has been 44 years since I was last badly stung, but I wish they would go somewhere else.
On the contrary, the word is out from the Chesapeake to the Blue Ridge that my place is dandy and they come, I do not doubt, from miles around.
Possibly it is the grapes. They like the grapes even better than the mockingbirds, which is saying a good bit.
I know some will say, "How do we find these filaments you speak of?" and I assure them they have only to look. They are like curved stems a sixtieth of an inch thick and three inches long, and cannot be missed.
Gardens of magnificent old beeches and oaks and bald cypresses and ginkgos and sophoras - the grand noble trees - are all very well, but I think there is a strain of the Dutchman in me, perhaps, since I like (for I have learned to like) narrow sunny town gardens.
Some gardeners are quite happy with zinnias and marigolds, which they plant every spring from seed, and they ignore the garden from November to April. Others like conifers and rocks, which can be as beautiful (or as hideous, depending on how they are done) in winter as in spring.
But I would miss having at least a few things coming on from seeds, and thus, I have just got through planting my beans and cucumbers. A month late. I have never planted beans, or anything else, over my daffodils, but I know old Mr. Culpeper, whose daffodils were much better than mine, grew everything in the world over his resting bulbs, so I have worked up courage to try the beans.
Every time I plant cucumbers I realize they were a mistake of trememdous dimension. This year I showed restraint, though not enough, of course, by planting only two clumps of cucumbers.
Unfortunately, as usual, there is not quite room for the two. As I said only today (the day of planting) I shall certainly see to it they do not flop over on to the phormium, the rose 'Cocorice' or the two daylily clumps, 'Songster' and 'Nobility.' Neither will I allow them to get up into the young plum, 'Stanley Prune,' nor into the climbing rose 'Thisbe,' which already has clematis 'Perle d'Azur' wandering about in it. Also, the cucumbers will have to be removed in October, since I am thinking of the tulip 'West Point,' a nice yellow lily-flowered tulip, for that spot.
The cucumbers have as much space as two nice bath mats. I do not accept the fact that the cucumbers, of course, are capable of occupying the space of 20 bath mats.
One year I had pumpkins, which got into my old tea roses like 'Mme. Lambard' and 'Papa Gontier' and 'Princesse de Sagan' (how I loved that rose) and the hybrid tea 'Snowbird,' (the best white rose I ever had) and 'White Maman Cochet,' which wearied of life as a bush and sent forth three 30-feet stems. I mention that to show that even without the pumpkins, the white M.C. would have done in the others.
But I was away a few weeks and when I returned, behold, there were pumpkins all over the place, and all over the roses. Now pumpkins, cucumbers, squashes and gourds and melons are much of a muchness.
They are all tremendous errors in a small garden. See what great progress I have made, limiting myself to two mounds of cucumbers.
The main trouble (in case you may still be saved) of course is that the cucumbers are borne out at the tips of the creeping stems, so the gardener, instead of whacking the cucumbers back, is always tempted to let them grow a bit more.
One year I planted them on a compost pile where, needless to say, they flourished as much as they always do. This made it impossible to dig out any compost all summer, and the five-lined skinks, who had lived in and around that pile for 50 years, did not seem to like it. A thing that never occurs to the gardener, for some reason, is that if cucumbers (or melons or gourds or squashes) are growing on the compost pile, it is impossible to dump bushel baskets of leaves on the pile, without smothering the cucumbers. On the whole, God meant cucumbers for farmers, not town gardeners, but perhaps (as I always say, from no evidence whatever) they will not grow so much this year.