As Beautiful as the Day

  • Post published:03/21/2010
  • Post comments:6 Comments

Daylilies are as beautiful as the day, and come in all the colors of the day, pale pink dawns, watery yellows of a sunshower, brilliant golds of noon, and all the ruddy shades of  sunset.

Richard Willard who grows about 500 daylilies at Silver Garden Daylilies says that when people think about orange daylilies they think of the common roadside variety, and “yet there are beautiful big orange daylilies with seven inch blossoms that you can see from a distance,” he said.

Richard Willard

Daylilies are also ‘beautiful for a day.’ This means they are not suitable for dinner party arrangements as I found out to my dismay in my early days of gardening and dinner partying. However, when I mentioned this problem to Willard, he said that was true, however they remain bright and shining all day in an arrangement which means they make stunning bouquets for church altars, ladies luncheons, or any other event that occurs during the day. The gardener just has to pick them that morning. Fortunately, a bouquet of mixed daylilies doesn’t take much arranging, just a nice big vase.

Willard grew up on farms in Vermont and spent a lot of time in his grandfather’s and mother’s garden. When he began his own garden in Greenfield 25 years ago he started with perennials, but “They were so much work, cutting back, and dividing. I had trouble keeping up.”

A few daylilies were included in the garden and he soon discovered, “Ohhh. These are easy!” That revelation was the beginning of a collection of about 500 varieties.  A mere drop in the bucket of those available because Willard explained that there are 58,000 daylilies in the official database.

It took time for the daylily collection to grow, but by 1991, while he worked to help revive the Greenfield Garden Club, he realized he needed more room. At Club meetings he became acquainted with  Ken and Carol Doerpholz who had a cut flower and herb farm out on Glenbrook Road.

The Doerpholzes had land but needed help with their garden, and Willard needed garden space, but had willing hands. Theirs was a partnership made in the garden.

Like other gardeners before him, Willard found that he soon had more daylilies than he could handle; ten years ago he began selling a few. Nowadays, he has a sale about once a month during bloom season at Glenbrook Gardens. Gardeners can visit the garden, make their choices and have the plant dug right on the spot. This year’s dates are June 19, July 10, and August 7. The garden is open from 9 am til 4 pm on those days.

He also brings plants to the Lavender Festival in Buckland on June 26 and 27, and is ready with his shovel at the July 17 Daylily Open House Sale at Glenbrook Gardens. For full information about daylily and Herban events with Johnson Hill Farm and  Stockbridge Herb farm logon to The website includes a color photo gallery of all daylilies for sale with information about size and bloom season.

It is the ease of growing daylilies that appeals to Willard, and to many gardeners. “There is no special advice,” Willard said. “There is not much weeding because the plants increase in size and grow so thickly. In the fall, I just cut back the foliage and spread good compost. I use no other fertilizers.”

Here at the End of the Road I am planting daylilies on a bank to eliminate mowing, and erosion. We will see if I have chosen carefully enough to gain  a long season of bloom.

Willard remains very active in the Greenfield Garden Club’s activities, the Spring Extravaganza plant sale which raises money for Club projects like grants for schools, and caring for the gardens at Trap Rock Plain at the intersection of Silver and Federal Streets.

Richard Willard is one of the presenters at this year’s Annual Master Gardener’s Spring Symposium on Saturday, March 20th at Frontier Regional High School in South Deerfield. He’ll be discussing ways to Dig, Divide, Dine and Decorate with Daylilies.

This annual event is a great way to gear up for spring chores. If you haven’t bought all your seeds or chosen all your plants you might be inspired by John Barry’s presentation on Flowering Shrubs that Really Like It Here, or Dan Kitteredge’s talk on Growing Nutrient Dense Food. Deb Habib of the wonderful Seeds of Solidarity Farm will talk about no-till gardening and how we can Grow Food Everywhere in our communities.

There are sessions on herbs, Integrated Pest Management, wild spring edibles and more. For a full list and information on how to register logon to or call Bridget Heller at (413) 665-8662, or email Rae Davis at

This year the featured speaker is Kerry Mendez of Perennially Yours speaking on Tips for Low Maintenance, High Impact Perennial Gardens which will include ornamental flowering shrubs.

In addition to all the informational sessions, vendors will be on site with local products, and the World Eye will be selling books, including Kerry Mendez’s The Ultimate Flower Gardener’s Top Ten Lists – 70 Garden-Transforming Lists, Money Saving Shortcuts, Design Tips & Smart Plant Picks for Zones 3, 4 and 5.

Between the Rows   March 13, 2010

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Flaneur

    While I’d never again view any plant as a “no-brainer” in terms of ease of care, daylilies are at least one thing even I can manage. Fortunately they are also, along with Japanese and Siberian iris, the flowers I most adore. Years ago I planted Mary Todds, a deep yellow, heavy petaled bloom on rather short stems. They demanded next-day dead-heading; otherwise the droopy remnants of blooms looked like over-ripe, deflated bananas. In bloom they were more than a little overblown, and heavy-handed, and I always imagined they were named by someone who was not overly fond of Abraham Lincoln’s wife. I always described them as “blowsy” although I have a favorable impression of Mary Todd – who doesn’t like a woman who liked to shop? My favorites, antithetical to the Mary Todds, are the Hyperions. Tall elegant stems, and a clear, pale lemon color whose clarity and cool crispness really carries a great distance. Thank you for this post and especially for the information about when one can purchase daylilies from Silver Garden. It is very tempting to imagine emulating Richard Willard [lucky guy!], but I suspect I’d end up overwhelmed, and with 58,000 varieties, endlessly chasing rainbows.

  2. Pat

    Janice – Thanks for the name of that daylily nursery. I had forgotten what it was, although I knew it existed.

  3. Jean

    Hi Pat, I just happened onto your blog via a comment at May Dreams Gardens. I have some daylilies that are nocturnal, starting to open late in the day and fully open by morning. (The nocturnal ones also tend to be fragrant.) I wonder if these varieties would work for dinner party arrangements?

  4. Pat

    Jean – What a great piece of information. I will start looking for nocturnal daylilies. Doesn’t seem possible. They are going to need a new name.

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