Exotic or Immigrant – Flowers from Afar

  • Post published:05/19/2017
  • Post comments:6 Comments
NOT an Ollalie daylily
NOT an Ollalie daylily – a flower from afar

I do promote the beauty and benefits that native flowers bring to our garden, but they would be less beautiful if they did not include the  flowers from afar that have come to be called ‘exotics.’ The Bridge of Flowers is one place you can see natives and exotics blooming harmoniously.

Dayliles first bloomed in Asia where they were used medicinally. Four hundred years ago they arrived in Europe and hybridizing began – and continues today. We are all familiar with the roadside daylily, Hemerocallis fulva, and many hybrids resemble them except that the range of color has exploded. Daylilies have also been hybridized to change petal shape and arrangement in ways that make the flower much more complicated.

I have a number of daylilies in my garden, but the first one I bought over 30 years ago came from Olallie Daylily Farm in South Newfane, Vermont. I had heard that the Farm had wonderful daylilies, but it was really hard to persuade the owner to actually sell them.

Christopher Darrow was the new young farmer, caring for, and presumably selling, daylilies that his grandfather, Dr. George Darrow, had hybrized in his retirement from the USDA. Christopher showed me around and when I finally decided on a daylily to buy he shook his head, “No, I can’t let you have that one.”

He repeated his sad no twice more until I finally said, “OK, what can I buy?” His choice and my purchase was a lovely yellow daylily – name lost, alas, except for the prefix Olallie. Since then I have added any number of daylilies to my garden.

Olallie Daylily Farm has grown and now sells over 2,500 daylily cultivars including those that Christopher himself has hybridized like the citrine hybrids that are six feet tall or more. If you visit the farm to choose your own from the field, you might also want to pick-your-own-blueberries before you leave. Grandfather George also kicked off the pick-your-own movement and has the Darrow blueberry to prove it.

Brunnera, a woodland plant, originated in Europe and Asia, but it is a current favorite in American gardens. In 2012 Brunnera “Jack Frost” was named the Perennial Plant of the year. It grows to about 12 inches tall with a spread of about two feet. It is the lacy white pattern on the green foliage resembling frost that inspired the name. Brunnera is sturdy and hardy, happy in the shade garden where its handsome foliage attracts attention. In the spring it blooms with clusters of small blue flowers that are reminiscent of forget-me-nots.

Hostas are another shade loving plant that can be used as a featured plant or as a ground cover. It originated in Asia and can be traced back 800 years, but it was not until  the early 19th century that it came to Europe and attracted attention Nowadays it is hard to find any shade garden that does not include a hosta or two – unless the gardener has given up because the deer love it so much.

There are now hundreds of hosta species and thousands of cultivars. A browse through any hosta catalog will show hostas in a range of color from a brilliant yellow green to a blue green and in sizes from plants with large leaves and a spread of over 36 inches to tiny miniature hostas like Mouse Ears. I became aware of the great world of hostas when I visited Mike Shadrack’s gardens in Buffalo.

Miniature hosta
Miniature hosta collection

Hosta hybridizers always seem to be finding new looks for these plants.  Wiggles and Squiggles is a new cultivar this year with long slim foliage with wavy edges in a bright shade of yellow green. It is only about eight inches tall with 18 inch scapes and purple flowers, but will make a clump that is two feet wide.

Those hosta lovers who have trouble with the depredations of deer might find an answer in a collection of the miniatures. Some have foliage as small as three inches. Like their larger relatives they come in bright yellow green shades like Limey Lisa to the blue-gray Judy Blue Eyes with lavender flowers.

Needless to say the rose is one of my favorite immigrants. Roses originated in China over 5000 years ago. When we lived in Beijing I didn’t understand the translation “monthly rose.” It was not until later that I learned a better translation would be everblooming rose. Indeed it is the everblooming gene in this Chinese rose that has enabled a world of everblooming roses to be hybridized.

Ghislaine de Feligonde rose
Ghislaine de Feligonde, David Austin hybrid

My new garden does not have room for dozens of roses but I have discovered Knock Out roses and Kordes hybrids that will bloom over a long season and will be disease resistant. The Bridge of Flowers has many roses that bloom from June into the fall. People ask me to choose the best season of bloom, but it is impossible to name. It depends on your favorites flowers.

A visit to the Bridge of Flowers inspires many people, suggesting flowers they  would like to add to their own gardens. It is even possible to buy plants that bloom on the Bridge. Once again the Annual Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale will be held on Saturday, May 13 from 9 a.m. to noon across from the Shelburne-BucklandCommunity Center on Main Street in ShelburneFalls. Plants come from the Bridge, and from local gardeners, with annuals from LaSalles in Whately. Rain or shine and come early.

Between the Rows   May 13, 2017

Tomorrow, May 20 native and exotic plants will be on sale at the Annual Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale in Shelburne Falls. Plants come from the Bridge, from area gardens and from local nurseries. The sale opens at 9 am and concludes at noon. Don’t be late.


This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Rose

    In the last few years I have tried to add more natives to my garden, as my interest in helping the pollinators has grown. But I could never give up my daylilies!

  2. Pat

    Rose – As I said – I am not a purist. I have some wonderful daylilies. And ‘unfortunately’ a friend who has a daylily farm now that he is ‘retired.”

  3. Lisa Greenbow

    For a beginning gardener daylilies are the best because they are so reliable. I love all their colors and forms. I didn’t realize there was a 6’tall daylily. Does that mean just the bloom goes that tall or are those big strappy leaves also taller? I am a fiend of the mini hostas. I have several and would have more if I had access to them. I like to see them before I purchase.

  4. Denise

    I have a large collection of daylilies and hostas. Most of my daylilies were purchased from a local hybridizer who had a wonderful garden of them along with irises. I do not care for the newer varieties of daylily with their weird color combinations, IMO. I do have a Sears Tower that grows nearly six feet – a long shoot towering above leaves like all the other plants.

  5. Pat

    Lisa – I just planted a small ‘golden’ hosta that I bought at a plant sale. I am trying to vary the shades of green in my garden and hostas do give one lots of color choice.
    Denise – I am with you on not appreciating daylilies that have weird color combos – or too many twisted or ruffled blossoms.

  6. Jean

    I have one Ollalie daylily, ‘Ollalie Star,’ in my collection. Right now, it is languishing in my holding area until I create a proper home for it in my new front garden. I would love to visit the Ollalie daylily farm. I’m especially interested in the H. citrina varieties. I have several large clumps of a very fragrant, nocturnal daylily that I believe is H. citrina.

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