H. 'Prissy Frills,' a spider daylily

            The last daylily is blooming now.  Hemerocallis ‘Autumn Minaret’ is a cross between two species daylilies, H. altissima, the late-blooming yellow daylily that can grow as tall as six feet, and H. fulva, the common orange ‘ditch lily’ that has provided breeding stock to so many of our fancier hybrids.  ‘Minaret’ is a favorite of mine because it extends the daylily season, coming as it does near the end of July, and the five-foot-tall stalks do look like elegant candles burning at the back of the border above the richly-toned leaves of the ‘Coppertina’ ninebark and clumps of black-eyed Susans.
H. 'Autumn Minaret'
            I firmly believe that you can never have too many daylilies, or too many ‘lilies’ for that matter, which is why daylilies in my garden rub shoulders with true lilies (lillium), along with crinum lilies, ginger lilies, rain lilies, and more.  Daylilies are well-suited to heat as well as to changing conditions.  Their tuberous root systems are highly forgiving and they allow themselves to be dug up and moved or divided repeatedly without holding any grudges.  Generally speaking, they prefer well-drained soil, and will be happy with soil on the lean side so long as it isn’t compacted and the lilies aren’t competing with tree roots.  Full sun is a must, and in late spring when the foliage is putting out plenty of new growth, be vigilant for thrips, which can undermine the plant’s health.  Use insecticidal soap on the leaves, after crushing as many of the tiny pests as you can with your hands. 
H. 'Superstition'
    Sources abound in the Carolinas for interesting and unusual varieties, including a great many daylily ‘farms.’  My favorite of these used to be Listening Lizard in Stanly County, North Carolina, but it was a casualty of the recession.  Few people know that one of the best sources for healthy hemerocallis, dug out of the ground right before your eyes in full flower, are private gardens owned by members of the American Hemerocallis Society.  These gardeners open their collections to the public during the AHS’ annual Display Gardens program held in late July.  In Region 15, which includes North and South Carolina, dozens of display gardens open to visitors during bloom-time, and many of the gardeners are willing to dig out clumps of flowering lilies for a modest donation to the cause. 
H. 'Swallowtail's Gate'
            Because daylilies increase so readily, you will be forever taking part in the karmic exchange of favored plants with your gardening friends, thus keeping the good vibes going.  I have shared many clumps of H. ‘Kalahari,’ a vigorous, big-flowered, apricot workhorse, as well as the better-known ‘Pandora’s Box’ which complements so many landscapes with its smallish, creamy flower sporting a lavender eye.  I was lucky to come by ‘Hyperion’ in a plant swap, an old standby valued for its lemony fragrance as well as its hardiness and profusion of yellow blooms.  ‘White Temptation,’ ‘African Diplomat,’ and ‘Pat of Butter’ were pass-alongs from my neighbor and gardening buddy, Steve, along with a demure mauve variation of ‘Pat of Butter’ that hasn’t got a name but which is one of my personal favorites.  (‘Pat of Blackberry Gelato’ would describe it adequately, but is too long to fit on a label.)  
            I have a weakness for spider daylilies, those long-stalked varieties whose petals twist like pinwheels.  ‘Lois Burns’ is a yellow spider with mango-colored streaks on her edges.  She is complemented in her spot atop the retaining wall by an enormous Rosmariunus prostratus spilling over the stones below her.  ‘Prissy Frills’ puts ‘Lois’ in the shade, however, when this spider blooms a week or so later.  ‘Prissy’ is more generously endowed where buds are concerned, and her gangly flowers are decked out in carnival colors.
            If you’re going to have over-sized daylilies, you need to have dwarf specimens as well, in order to balance the collection.  My nod in that direction is to the aptly named H. ‘Little Peanut,’ a reddish-orange charmer which has proven sturdier than some of the other dwarf varieties I’ve tried, and has increased happily in the lower garden where she edges a bed of Salvia guarnitica ‘Black and Blue.’

H. 'Duchess of Parma' with Tradescantia virginiana 'Martha Washington's Bonnet'
            I’m not an artist at heart, so the most visually pleasing plant combinations in my garden nearly always occur by lucky accident.  That has been the case with H. ‘Duchess of Parma,’ a voluptuous, peach-colored diva which blooms against a backdrop of Tradescantia virginiana ‘Martha Washington’s Bonnet.’ In full flower this unusually tall and floriferous spiderwort is covered in blossoms that are a breath-catching shade of Della Robbia blue.  
H. '100th Anniversary' with Loropetalum
          Serendipity played a part, too, in my siting of H. ‘100th Anniversary,’ given to me by a friend from my old neighborhood.  This daylily had to survive in a pot for so long I’d almost forgotten what it looked like in bloom.  Once it found a satisfactory home in the southwest bed it redeemed itself and then some, bursting into flower last month with gorgeous flowers in a color I’ve heard described as ‘ashes of roses.’  Completely unplanned was the complementary shade of the loropetalum that functions as ‘Anniversary’s background – an uncommon bi-color variety with rose-tinted foliage called ‘Peppermint.’
          One of the few combinations I actually planned that has proven successful is a grouping at the edge of the shade garden consisting of H. 'Chicago Picotee,' Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy,' and Acer palmatum 'Sumi-nagashi.'  The daylily's crimped edges and glowing complexion is shown to great advantage against the glossy, long-bladed leaves of the purple pineapple lily. The dark tones of the lily's foliage are repeated in the lacy, textured leaves of the Japanese maple, which emerge purple-black in the spring, turning crimson by autumn.

H. 'Chicago Picotee,' Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy,' and Acer
              When the last daylily blooms on the cusp of August, it signals a recess in the gardening season for me.  The show will continue out there without my help: the spectacular crinum ‘Ellen Bosanquet’ revealing the first of her intensely fragrant, hot-pink trumpets, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ erupting with spear-shaped blooms that glow at the back of the shade bed, while the rose-of-sharon, Hibiscus syriacus ‘Lavender Chiffon’ blooms nearby.  By this time next month the big stands of ginger lily (Hedychium coronarium) will be weighed down by heavy, scented flowers, and the Japanese anemones growing happily in the moist bed below the birdbath in the lower garden, A. hupehensis japonica ‘Queen Charlotte’ and ‘September Charm,’ will commence nodding their charming pink flowers on slender stalks.  (In that spot where the breezes find them easily, it’s clear why their common name is ‘windflower.’)  Even the young deciduous magnolia I planted last year, M. liliiflora ‘Ann,’ which skipped bloom-time this spring, displays a few superbly purple buds waiting in the wings for fall.
H. 'Hyperion,' one of the few scented daylilies
            But at this point in the summer, gardening becomes a test of endurance, even survival.  Before heading out to work on these days when the heat index tops 100, I must slather on the sunblock, spray insect repellent over that and for good measure slip on my mosquito-deterring wristband.  Then I take up the wide-brimmed straw hat – the brim a necessity after a spider dropped from a tree several years ago and bit the back of my neck, sending me into anaphylactic shock and requiring an expensive ambulance ride to the Emergency Room.  The hat is followed by latex gloves that are also non-negotiable in mid-July, given how many spiny caterpillars are working the vegetation in full camouflage.  A sting from one of these, probably the saddleback moth caterpillar which feeds on roses and blueberries, puffed my hand up to twice its size not long ago.  I considered myself lucky not to be knocked unconscious.  
            Ever since the ER visit, I have followed the doctor’s advice and kept liquid Benadryl on hand to stave off allergic reactions to insect and caterpillar bites.  (Epinephrine-pens are a good idea as well, but they are costly.)  When fire ants swarmed up my legs last week and stung my ankles despite that fact that I garden in thick socks and long pants, I downed four teaspoons of Benadryl immediately, and stayed vertical.  As anyone who’s been bit by these horrible pests knows, the itching from the stings is formidable, but it can be controlled by frequent applications of Benadryl gel.  That’s a much better alternative to rescue by firemen.
            As I move through the process of suiting up, I must do so to a chorus of whimpers and barks from my dog, Tiny Alice, who is beside herself with impatience to get out in the yard.  She is on Cloud 9 when we get there, but with a dew point above 70 I am soon sweating like a block of cheese in a microwave.  By the time I’ve reached my limit of heat tolerance and have gathered tools, dog, and gear to come inside, it’s time for my second shower of the day, a full-body check for ticks, hydration via a gallon of cold liquid, and a heat-recovery nap on the couch. 
H. 'Elizabeth Ferguson'
            This is why I’m resigned to mostly hanging up my gardening gloves for the coming six weeks or so, leaving the garden to the fire ants, the unsociable saddlebacks, Japanese beetles and bindweed.  In autumn I’ll catch my second wind, as will the plants, and we’ll come together once again in a relationship based on pleasure, rather than pain.

Access information about growers, events, regional chapters and all things having to do with daylilies on this colorful website of the American Hemerocallis Society: