Daylily Mecca 2010

Last updated 05/31/10.

I've just returned from a glorious visit to daylily Mecca. I visited everybody: the Trimmers, the Salters, the Stamiles, the Kinnebrews, Kirchhoff & Morss, Dan Hansen, the Joiners, John Peat, Ted Petit, Jack Carpenter, Curt Hanson, Pam Erikson, Lycett & Lorrain, and Nancy Oakes.

It was so refreshing to visit greenhouses full of daylilies free of rust. Since the rust epidemic hit, the industry has had to relocate up north to where the seasons made it practical to control rust. Canada was the natural choice, with the abundant and cheap supplies of peat, electricity, land, and other resources which made it a natural for pot plant production even in the 1990's. The isolation provided by greenhouses for a lengthy part of the season was ideal for providing rust-free environments for production and breeding. Many breeders outside of Mecca grouse about how the folks in Canada are not breeding for real world conditions in the rest of the AHS regions: year-round lighted greenhouse growth free of rust is not representative they say. But the breeders up in Canada must know something.

The Mecca season could be any time of the year, since the lighted greenhouses know no seasons. But for the convenience of buyers, it's slightly earlier than the traditional May date, so that they can carry their purchases home (wrapped in their overcoats against the blizzards) and plant these tender perennials immediately. Some of the old-fashioned Canadian growers complain that their field plants are still dormant for sales or the show, but that is just the complaining of people who haven't kept up with modern daylily trends.

The Stamiles, Trimmers, and Reilly's are pleased to be back up north where they felt they belonged. "We never took to that southern heat" they said, "and with the global warming out of control, most of Florida was underwater anyway." Pat has been working on multiple colors on single scapes, while Grace was handing around magnifying glasses to examine the tiny double terrarium varieties she is now breeding.

John Kinnebrew has finally produced seedlings that are all ruffled edge with no petal. His new HOSERCOAST series is a sight to behold.

Curt Hanson has an enormous variety he's named FEED ME, M*TH*RF*CK*R. Impressive teeth on the petals! I wasn't able to get a close look....

The Salters have switched to hexadeciploids. Jeff is now working on plaid edges, while Elizabeth is producing eyes larger than the bloom itself.

Jack Carpenter is producing flowers so large that each three inch thick scape can bear only a single 30 inch bloom. This also resolves problems of flowers crowding each other on the scape.

The Stamiles, the Trimmers, and the Joiners are in a three-way race to see who can breed spider daylilies with petals so long they drag on the ground. Short or fallen scapes are considered cheating. Every morning they were out in the greenhouses early disbudding and then combing and braiding the petals of these beauties. A "Rapunzel" award has been created for the future winner.

David Kirchhoff has filled his poultry coops with garden statuary. He found that it was much hardier in the new climate.

Dave Talbott has started another enterprise: introducing grits to Canadians. They wouldn't eat them until he covered them with maple syrup. His motto: "Dave sells big grits!"

Phil Reilly is breeding for whites and pinks with scrumptious forms. He has a big problem with blue flowered seedlings appearing in quantity. He reports that he has been rogueing them out from his beds for years, but they still keep popping up. He hopes to eradicate the blue in a few more years of effort.

Other relocated southern breeders have specialized in a number of new flower types. There are several "bottle" breeders, who have taken advantage of the cooler climate to specialize in daylilies whose blooms never open. A few have developed all-green flowers, and are working on making the foliage colored. And most adventurous of all, some are working on scapes that delve under ground like peanuts, and open the blooms under the ground.

The daylily show was held in an ice palace, where the natural light through the ice and chill temperatures kept the flowers pristine and their natural colors for an entire week. After the banquet of regional delicacies (including blubber thinly sliced and served in hothouse daylily blooms), the award winners set off into the midnight sun on their snow machines.

Mecca this year has been unbelievable. But it feels good to be home. I'll pot the small ones for my windowsill, and place the big ones in the garden. When the rust gets them, I'll plant the petunias where they've been to last out the remainder of the season, and look forward to another thrilling Mecca next year!

[Thanks to Bob Sobek who originated the idea of Florida hybridizers returning to the North to escape the rust.]

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