CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The e-mail almost fooled me. "Nature's Easiest Perennial is Ready for Fall Planting!" the subject line crowed. "Order your Hemerocallis today!"
I clicked on the e-mail in great anticipation of something new and different. It was late at night, and I was tired -- that's my excuse for not recognizing Hemerocallis as the good ol' daylily.
But it made me take a second look at a plant that I had tired of over the past few years. All of my lilies turned into "ditch lilies," orange and short-lived. These "tawny daylilies" grow so widely that they are often considered wildflowers. (I read where they are also called washhouse or outhouse lilies because they were frequently planted at such buildings.) So I've been pulling them out and replacing them with other plants, but after reading about many of the newer cultivars, I'm ready to try them again.
The name "Hemerocallis" comes from the Greek words "hemera" (day) and "kalos" (beautiful). They are heat- and drought-resistant, and come in a wide variety of colors and sizes.
Early fall is a great time to plant daylilies, but be sure to mulch them for the winter. Plant daylilies 18 to 24 inches apart and set the plant so that the crown (the point where roots and foliage meet) is no deeper than 1 inch below the surface of the soil. They grow best in full sun or light shade. Cultivars with darker-colored flowers should be protected from strong afternoon sun, which may fade the petals.
"Always Afternoon," an award-winning plant that has a chartreuse center, dark plum middle and rosy purple edge to its blooms is touted as having exceptional vigor and a generous ability to rebloom. I've ordered a few.
Picture book of plants
Monsignor Sadie at the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston shared a clipping about one of the church's landmark contributions to horticulture -- an ecclesiastical commission known as "Hortus Eystettensis." Latin for "Garden of Eichstatt," the book forever altered the way the West looks at the plant kingdom.
In today's world, where botanical images can be found not just in the garden but also on everything from dishware to the front of a sweatshirt, a book of botanical drawings doesn't seem very unusual. The art from this book, however, was originally published in 1613. It's based on plants from the Bavarian Diocese of Eichstatt (established in 745), in the bishop's garden -- the first major European botanical garden outside Italy.
The bishop asked Basilius Besler, an apothecary intimately familiar with medicinal plants, to create the "Florilegium," from the Latin meaning "a gathering of flowers." Besler's images, created while studying the flowers from the bishop's palace, are stunning in both their accuracy and their beauty.