If you find any gardener who says the spring was just great (and the spring was, of course, the most revoltingly wet and dismal one we have had since 1609), you may be sure he is either an orchard fellow or a daylily fancier.
Daylilies soaked up everything that fell, and while they always bloom magnificently here, they bloomed this year without any coddling in the way of extra watering, which is usually given in the weeks before they start blooming in mid-June.
Recently I took off a week to sit with my daylilies and for once in the year the weather was superb, and the National Capital Daylily Club's tour of gardens and show at the National Arboretum were great events.
There is no point casting you into total gloom, so I will say little about the tour gardens, except to say they made me desperate with envy. I exaggerate, of course, but not much.
The Wirth-McCrone garden at West River, Md., has 1,000 varieties and many are in vast clumps. I refuse to contemplate the work of that garden, but the acre was a sea of bloom, and (as an ancient mariner, so to speak) I was amused to see a fellow new to daylilies trot up to a fine clump of the outmoded old "Mission Bells," one of the greatest yellows of the past.
It does not surprise me that some commercial growers (notably Steve Webber, 9180 Main St., Damascus, Md. 20750) have started rescuing some of the best of the old daylilies from 1890 to 1950, and are selling them along with the modern sorts.
I do not much like the orange fulvous look of "Mikado" and "Dr. Stout," but they make magnificent clumps in the National Arboretum collection.
Lynn Batdorf's care of and labor in this public garden has made a tremendous difference in its appearance. As one of the garden's most conspicuous )and some said intemperate) critics a few years ago, I am grateful that it is now about as beautiful as a garden can be.
There one may see such beautiful old daylilies as "Revolute" and "Hesperus' among the yellows. No garden need apologize for their inclusion among the more current sorts.
The newer "Lovely Lea" is a pinkish melon-colored daylily of superb garden value.It may have 30 or more blooms on its stem, and without splitting hairs it may stand as one of the very finest of all daylilies for Washington gardens.
"Pastoral Symphony" is a flower that never won even the most minor award, I think, and yet if I were to name the most beautiful of all daylilies this might be it. It is a large open buff-ivory-melon pastel that blooms enthusiastically.
"Mary Todd" is a massive hot yellow that remindsme of a bulldozer, with heavy stalks and flowers massed at the top, over dark handsome foliage that strikes me as ideal for a cemetery. I would not dream of growing it, but it is possibly the most popular daylily now in commerce. If anything got in her way - a young oak, say - Mary would tromp right over it. It is on almost every list of the best daylilies, because of its brilliant pure color and fine vigor, substance and texture.
The fact that it lacks grace does not bother many.
Among current daylilies I do not sneer at, however, is "Yasmin," a rose and yellow blend that represents the finest in the tradition of sturdy plants, beautiful elegant flowers, well-branched stalks with 30 or so buds. It will, in the long run, be admired when "Mary Todd" and all those other sorts like a bunch of damn bananas on top of a broomstick, are quite forgotten.
"Green Glitter" is a light yellow with a green throat, that also combines a lovely flower with every other desirable aspect of growth.
"Green Flutter" is smaller, a more mustard yellow with a more pronounce green, a flawless plant.
Among the fine medium yellows I think anybody would like "Hortensia," "Jomico," "Windjammer" and "Sunblest,", though the last is hard to find and relatively unknown. A very fine daylily, though.
Two quite similar flowers in soft creamy yellow are "American Craftsman" and "Winning Ways," and while both are deficient in blooms-per-stem, I notice I would not be without them.
Among dark reds, the current favorite is "Ed Murray," which has lots of flowers and, on a hot day in full sun, is brilliant and rich like the darkest of red velvets. I do not quite like it, though it is a fine achievement. Its flowers are smallish and they are not held as gracefully as they should be.
Among old reds are "Chief Sarcoxie," "Alan," "Gusto," all of them very showy and reliable. For that matter, the quite old "Crimson Star" makes one of the bravest clouds of red imaginable but I have not seen it offered for sale for years. And do not have it myself. "Bess Ross' is another good oldster.
A new red, "Jack Ward," strikes me as the finest color I have seen, but I do not know its other qualities. The 25-year-old "Premier" can still make a brilliant show in the garden.
I am indifferent to those daylilies that have only a few flowers to the stem, though some are widely admired for the beauty of individual blooms.
Something should be said, no doubt, for the hot blazing oranges. "Burning Daylight" and "Evergold" are as brilliant and well-behaved in the garden as one can desire.
Pinks, really desirable pinks, are now widely available. "Pink Superior" is clean, light, decided, waxy and fine. "Love That Pink" is everything desirable, a lovelier flower than "Master Touch," though I well recall my impatience a while back to acquire the latter.
Pinks with a touch of rose include "Windsor Castle," which may not have enough blooms but which I greatly like. An old cheap rose is "Spanish Beauty," which in sunny hot weather is irresistible to me, smallish, rounded, touched with yellow, beautifully loaded with bloom.
Among melon pinks there must be hundreds by now. "Iffy" reblooms well, and I blush to say I love the huge "Rubens' which wilts a bit in heat.
Among pale yellows passing for white are "White Formal" and "Hope Diamond" and "Iron Gate Glacier," all quite pretty. So is the ancient "Shotting Star" and the old "Whistling Swan."
There are many new purples, and whatever else may be said of them, they are all a lot better than the ugly old "Potentate" which I thought detracted from gardens 30 years ago. "Chicago Thisde," Byzantine Emperor" and "Chicago Regal" all strike me as okay, and "Chicago Royal" is pleasant, too. "Lavender Flight," "Little Grapette" (what a stinking name) and "Little Wart" (which is not quite so bad, though hardly an exercise in euphony) are three that many like.
People will like anything. I got rid of two of them and did not acquire the third. "Little Wine Cup" I have stuck where I do not have to see it. A Japanese anemone has about taken care of it by now.
"Wild Wine" is dark blackish purple, a handsome color, but if mine perished I would not weep.
Sharp citrous lemon yellows - well, I will not tolerate a word against any of them. From the wild H. citrina and H. vespertina, through "Hyperion" and "Joan Durelle" and "Lime Painted Lady" and 200 other down to the present, they are all lovely. Don't let me hear you picky about some imagined defect. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, no caption