It must be spring, because I’m feeling a terrible shopping itch. My annual plant buying expedition is set for mid-May, and I’m working on the list. This is yet another opportunity (and I’m well past second chances) to gather my enthusiasm into a useful plan, rather than succumb to a flurry of impulse buying. I’m thinking of a red and blue/purple direction for the front garden, and it all hinges on finding several pots of ‘Red Hot Returns’ daylily (Hemerocallis ‘Red Hot Returns’, Zone 4), a reblooming cultivar. Most daylilies bloom for 21 to 30 days, but reblooming daylilies can put out flowers from late spring through frost. In scientific terms, these daylilies are ever blooming, bred to roll through at least three flowering cycles in a growing season.
I’m set on acquiring a group of red perennials, because that’s the preferred colour choice for a crowd of interesting pollinators I want to attract to the garden. Certainly there’s no shortage of red-flowering perennial plants, but the lure of extended bloom from the reblooming daylilies is irresistible. Twenty years ago, I bought a pot of ‘Stella de Oro’, a rebloomer the colour of ball park mustard, which was one of the first rebloomers. It flowered all summer and made masses of foliage, and I must have divided it into more than a dozen clumps over the years. Then I had ‘Happy Returns’, an improved rebloomer, with bright sunshine yellow flowers that were larger than ‘Stella de Oro’, and not such prolific foliage. ‘Red Hot Returns’ is a further improved selection, with five-inch (13-cm) flowers on two-foot (60-cm) stems.
These diploid rebloomers are part of the Happy Ever Appster collection bred by Darrel Appster, who has focussed on developing daylilies that thrive in northern climates (Zone 4, and possibly Zone 3). Their heights range between 18 to 28 inches (45 to 70 cm), and the foliage remains fresh and vibrant all season. Improved characteristics include extended hours of open flowers. Old-fashioned daylilies stay open approximately eight to 10 hours, from early morning through late afternoon while Appster’s introductions remain open 12 to 16 hours.
Red is a new colour in daylilies, and I’m drawn to the rich, pure red of ‘Red Hot Returns’, with a yellow-chartreuse contrasting throat. (Other colours are available, including ‘Apricot Sparkles’, bicolour pink and purple ‘Just Plum Happy’ and lemon yellow ‘Big Time Happy’.) With its flowering capabilities generously holding on to frost, this daylily will be the backbone of the front garden bed. For a blue/purple companion, I‘ll enlarge my collection of ‘Caradonna’ perennial sage (Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, Zone 4), and also look for the vanilla-scented blue Daddy Blue petunias.
Breeding improvements like ever-blooming plants, extended flower life and adaptability to a northern climate are all valuable characteristics for my garden. And if they’re red, well then, what’s not to like?
More by Judith Adam