Daylily enthusiasts hold 48th annual show at Trax
Talk about the birds and bees, and daylily breeder Julia Baxter is likely to mention her favorite flower, too.
“You look at the pistil, which is the female part, and if she doesn’t have a headache and she likes you, she’ll make a pod,” the Peters Township resident quipped. “I always tell that. There’s a lot of sex going on in the yard, absolutely.”
That’s good news for Baxter and fellow members of the Pittsburgh Iris and Daylily Society, many of whom enjoy breeding the latter, often with the goal of coming up with new and attention-grabbing varieties.
“It used to be that weird was gone: a spotted flower, throw it away,” she explained during the society’s 48th annual daylily show, held July 8 at Trax Farms in Union Township. “Now, if it’s strange and has extra stuff growing in the middle, it’s called distinctive. We want distinctive.”
Perennials of the genus Hemerocallis, which get their name from the tendency to open in early morning and wither during the night, generally occur in nature as yellow, orange and pale pink. Hybridizing by daylily enthusiasts has expanded the color palette considerably, along with producing varieties in features such as petal shape and quantity, and the size of the flower.
“I’m trying to make some little miniatures that are under three inches, if possible,” flower size,” Baxter said. “I think maybe the biggest ones we have now – people go for big, big, big, big – they can be 14 inches across.”
Relative size constituted some of the category sections at the daylily show, which was judged by professionals. Another section was for Unusual Form Flowers, a popular category for hybridizers across the nation who strive for something completely different.
“There’s a breeder now who’s doing like a checkerboard. When it flowers, it’s like a gingham tablecloth,” Pleasant Hills resident Sam Webb said. “There’s another breeder that makes the edges, rather than having ruffles, have ‘teeth.’ It’s one out, one in, one out, like dinosaur teeth.”
He serves as treasurer and membership chairman for the society, which has annual dues of $10 for individuals and $12 for families.
“We have members who go up and down the eastern seaboard,” he said, with about 150 total. “They’re from New York all the way down to the Carolinas and Georgia. Some of them are people who were Pittsburghers who moved, and others are people who are joiners. They join as many clubs as they can to have exposure the different varieties of daylilies.”
A visit to the Monongahela home of Jack Enos could provide plenty of that.
“I have probably about 900 registered varieties, and probably 6,000 seedlings up in the yard,” Enos, the society’s co-president, said. “The joy of it, for me, is hybridizing, when you create a new flower. And when that flower blooms, it may be very similar to a lot of other flowers, but it’s absolutely unique. You never know what you’re going to get.”
More than 80,000 varieties of daylily are registered with the American Hemerocallis Society, with each breeder given the opportunity to provide a name.
“I have one that’s named after the patriarch of our family,” Enos said. “We have a family reunion every year with an auction. I started bringing seedlings to auction off, and I ended up naming one Sylvanus Fike. The only way you can get it as at that reunion.”
He also is a fan of wordplay.
“I have a big, tall yellow one that I named the Eyeful Flower. It amazed me that the name wasn’t taken, after 85,000 flowers.”