'Love and Dazzle' (Lamb-K. 2006)

'Love and Dazzle' (Lamb-K. 2006)
A Loon Song Gardens daylily introduction.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dormant Daylily Foliage Shines in Spring

On Sunday, in between weeding, I took a few photos to show the season’s progress. Spring is galloping way ahead of the usual schedule. It looks more like mid-May in Minnesota that mid-April.

Our garden is in USDA hardiness zone 4, meaning winter temperatures can reach minus 20°F to minus 30°F. We haven’t had extremely low temperatures in recent years, but in 2009-2010, we did reach minus 22°F. Luckily, we had snow cover.

Believe it or not, snow cover is unreliable during many Minnesota winters. I dread open winters. Many perennials and hardwoods—even native varieties—experience damage with frigid temperatures and no snow. I look forward to a great gardening season in 2010 because of the favorable winter conditions we had.

In springtime, I truly appreciate the lovely foliage of dormant daylilies. When the new shoots of dormant daylilies emerge from the earth, they look fresh and bright. The foliage speaks to me of renewal and reawakening—a beautiful new beginning. It's what spring is all about. This photo of a dormant seedling was taken 4/24/08.

The next photo, taken last Sunday, 4/18/10, shows how the dormant foliage of 'Minnesota Sunshine' comes through the vagaries of early spring weather. The photo also shows how much further along our spring season is compared to 2008.

The next photo, also taken on Sunday, 4/18/10, shows another dormant daylily with early spring appeal, 'Grape Kiss', my 2010 introduction. This cultivar produces numerous fans quickly and forms a nice clump without being overly aggressive.

In comparison, as the snows melt, evergreen foliage reveals itself standing limply above the ground, all tattered and sometimes even mushy. It grows intermittently when days are warm enough, struggles through frosts and sleet, and then starts to grow again. Here is an example of evergreen foliage from 4/24/08.

So when all else says, “Spring is here!”, an evergreen like this says, “Wait. I’m not quite ready!” And so, we wait.

In a few weeks’ time—as I now know—most of the evergreen foliage will recover, and I won’t be able to tell one from the other. But I am impatient in the beginning. This looks like a good spring for the impatient gardener, because it is apparent that those differences will disappear very soon.

The next photo (from Sunday, 4/18/10) is of a clump of the evergreen daylily 'Tooth' (Hansen-D. 2000). This southern-bred evergreen is hardy and vigorous here. Already, it has almost grown out of the early spring tatters.

I can’t help but feel a little anxious about an evergreen’s actual survival when I first see its sad-looking foliage. I’ve had some tender varieties that would start to grow in the spring, only to turn to complete mush a couple weeks later and be gone for good.

I suspect the crowns were too damaged by winter to be able to withstand insects and pathogens that become active as soil warms in the spring. By now, most of those tender weaklings have eliminated themselves from Loon Song Gardens. I try to avoid daylilies that need pampering here, especially for hybridizing.

Welcome, new visitors! I appreciate your comments—thanks for your interest.

P.S. A third type of foliage used in daylily registrations is semi-evergreen. The next photo (from 04/24/08) shows a daylily that is registered as a semi-evergreen, considered intermediate between dormant and evergreen.

If you are reading this and are new to daylilies, you might want to see the page on my website about foliage: More About Daylilies - Foliage

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