In late April, 2009, East Mississippi Master Gardener Pete Connolly offered to plant about 75 day lilies in an area just behind the Ceramics Building at Meridian Activity Center as a community project.
After the city crew cleared the area of grass, tilled in some organic material and raised the bed, the local master gardeners came with their shovels and planted the lilies. Pine straw is the preferred mulch, which was laid on top of a weed cloth to keep the grass and weeds down.
Some wonder, “Why plant daylilies? They only bloom for one day.” When you spend any time looking at these gorgeous ladies, you’ll understand. Also some plants may have as many as 30 buds getting ready to bloom! And bloom they will – from mid March through August. There are varieties known as early bloomers, mid bloomer and late bloomer. Be sure to buy some of each for blooms all summer.
Connolly fertilizes twice a year with "hen-do" or chicken manure or milorganite, a slow-release non burning organic nitrogen fertilizer. Fertilize in the early spring as new growth appears, and once again in midsummer. Water after applying fertilizer. Daylilies need lots of sunlight, water and good drainage. If you notice fewer blooms it might be time to divide, in the fall. After blooming the stalks will dry and are easy to pull out, leave the leaves until the next spring when new growth begins to come up through the dead leaves, then remove them as you add fresh mulch.
Ben Arthur Davis is a renowned author who lived in Meridian and wrote about camellias and day lilies. In Meridian there is a park on Fourteenth Street named after him – with no camellias or daylilies growing – and a local garden club bearing his name, as well as several awards given in his name. Meridian Activity Center is fortunate to have a day lily which is named after Ben Arthur Davis.
Now Pete Connolly has a claim of fame. A creamy white bloom with a reddish pink eye is named “Suburban Pete” by a hybridizer in Hattiesburg.
Once you decide to grow some daylilies, you might think of growing ones by the unusual names given the plants. A hybridizer (a gardener who "creates" a new bloom by crossing two others) always names his best plants after a family member. One garden on State Boulevard grouped her lilies by Bible stories they were named after, such as “Woman at the Well.”
It’s a whole other world, growing day lilies ... much more fun than texting. But it can be more expensive – a plant by a well known hybridizer can cost upwards of $1,000.
• Barbara Wells is director of Meridian Activity Center. You may e-mail her at email@example.com