When Pollie Maasz was first attracted to Day lilies she thought that she had all that was available – one red, one orange and one yellow. Twenty plus years on she is a National Plant Collection Holder of more than 400 different types of Hemerocallis, spider and unusual forms, and her garden holds more than 1500 different cultivars.
Last week, to round off my holiday, I went down to the New Forest to visit her nursery in Lymington. Pollie had said that the peak flowering was about 10 days before, but a host of shades from the coolest cream, through fiery shades of orange to the darkest red greeted us in the garden and the purpose-built beds in the adjacent field. Like Dahlia, Chrysanthemum and many other highly cultivated genera, Hemerocallis are categorised by flower shape and the spider form has petals with length 4 times the width. Unusual forms are those that do not readily fit into other categories.
Popular in this country, Hemerocallis are the most traded plant in the USA with individual plants changing hands for many hundreds of dollars. Although Pollie grows plants from US seed, she always imports plants from Europe to avoid bringing in a tobacco whitefly which affects this genus in the States, and even then plants are quarantined for a year to ensure that they are disease free before they are planted out in the garden.
Pollie and husband Terry do a lot of breeding of new cultivars and mark their matches with cotton around the flower stem.
The crosses do not always take and as we walked around Pollie inspected some of her trials. She admits that while Terry’s crosses are more scientifically created by looking at the parentage of the plants, hers are more based on gut feel. It takes about three years from sowing to get a plant of reasonable size and at this stage, while they are still in pots, many are weeded out as having no future. Then, as they will perform differently in the ground, they are planted out and again assessed before being considered for introduction.
New cultivar names are registered with the American Hemerocallis Society along with a photograph and full description. Many of the names are worthy of a double take, such as ‘Radiation Biohazard’ but my favourite name is ‘Grandma Kissed Me’. I would find it hard to choose a favourite plant, although ‘High Tor’ is an elegant simple form with a lovely perfume and ‘Grey Witch’ is a smouldering dusky pink with a golden heart.
Pollie has turned her passion into a business and sells plants from her nursery and by mail order. Open until the 19th August, check the website for details, it’s certainly worth a trip.