Daylily

A Frank's Catnapping Smith daylily in Joan Miller's Maryland Line garden beams with brilliant color.A daylily's blooms only last one day--hence the name--so the look of Miller's garden changes daily. (Staff photo by Jen Rynda, Patuxent Publishing / July 20, 2012)

American painter Elizabeth Murray once said, "Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint, and the soil and sky as canvas."

And, although Joan Miller doesn't consider herself an artist, the daylily gardens behind the Maryland Line home where she has lived for 44 years are indeed, true works of art.

The three terraced gardens with 420 varieties of daylilies have the essentials found in any good painting:

Color — Maroon daylilies so dark they look black. Pale pink daylilies with serrated edges of light yellow. Tall bursts of fiery orange blooms.


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Shape — Daylilies of varying heights with different petals and constantly changing number of blossoms share the gardens with other flowering plants such as hostas, phlox, bee balm, dianthus and coneflower.

Texture — Some daylilies have long, spiky petals that resemble spider legs, while others are called "bagels" because of their round, fat petals that form a circle.

Movement — The informal style of Miller's gardens has a flowing irregularity that draws attention to individual plants as well as the whole panorama.

And since individual daylily blossoms only last one day — hence the name — the art in Miller's garden changes daily.

"There are 22 blooms on this plant today," she said, pointing to a vivid yellow daylily called Mary's Gold. "All of these blooms will be dead tomorrow."

Miller said she removes dead flowers about three times a week, a chore that takes her several hours each time. Most of her daylilies will display 10 to 25 blooms a day for several weeks.

She said she spends four to five hours a day in the spring and summer in her garden. She normally goes out first thing in the morning and works before it gets too hot.

Besides cleaning up old blooms, she separates plants that have become too crowded and plants new varieties. She is constantly pulling weeds.

This year her garden bloomed much earlier because of earlier warm weather. Miller said she normally has something flowering in her garden through October.

"I've always loved flowers. Years ago, I was in a basement apartment in Silver Spring and I spent all my time reading flower catalogs," she said. "These gardens evolved over the years to where they are now."

Miller, who taught biology, environmental science and chemistry at Hereford High School from 1972 to 1995, when she retired, used to grow annuals from seed but became intrigued with daylilies after she had time on her hands in retirement.

She said she visited Karen Collins' daylily garden in White Hall in the late 1990s. Collins, a member of the Free State Daylily Society and the American Hemerocallis Society, had a display garden that was open to the public. Miller said she was amazed at what she saw.

"I saw flowers with wonderful shades of color. They are so different from daylilies of the 60s and 70s. Everything now is much, much more vibrant. Most people think of daylilies as being the orange roadside ones, but there are 60,000 varieties now, and more coming."

Bloom where planted

It wasn't long before Collins conviced Miller to join both the local Free State Daylily Society and the national American Hemerocallis Society, or AHS. The more Miller learned about the varities of daylilies, the more she bought and planted.

She and April Snyder, another Free State Daylily Society member, still visit other members' gardens to see firsthand what some of the thousands of daylilies look like.