When I retire, Ill do a little more gardening. How many times have you heard that statement? Noel Weston retired 11 years ago from his job as horticulturist for the city of Raleigh, and today hes doing more than a little gardening. He grows and sells more than 1,100 varieties of daylilies on 7 acres at his Lakeview Daylily Farm in Garner.
How many plants does he take care of? I have no idea, he said.
On a recent rainy Saturday morning, Weston sat under a shelter wearing a wide-brimmed hat as he waited for a visitor. Hes a rather quiet man, but hes happy to answer questions about daylilies and other gardening matters; and he doesnt mind repeating himself if you dont quite get it at first.
Westons interest in gardening began when he was a child, and his interest in daylilies sprouted because a former boss liked them. While working for the city, Weston helped install and maintain daylily gardens at Pullen, Fletcher and Jaycee parks.
The daylily, or hemerocallis, gets its name from its bloom time. Each bloom lasts just one day. However, this plant has held Westons interest for much longer. While still working with the city, he began growing the plants on his own. As he thought about retirement, he knew hed want to keep busy. Lakeview Daylily Farm does the trick.
The daylily, which grows from a fleshy root, is fairly easy to grow. Thats the main reason why I grow them, Weston said.
The key to successful growing is the soil. The daylily needs a pH ranging from 6.2 to 6.8. (See box for information on soil testing.)
Weston steered a golf cart among yellow, orange and pink daylily beds Erin Prairie (a chartreuse yellow), Jen Melon (light orange), Outrageous (bright orange-red) and Rose Emily (a rosy pink). He pointed out which ones help control weeds (Newberry Bright Moon) and which do not (Stella dOro).
Occasionally he stopped the cart, walked over to a plant and picked off a spent bloom. He pointed out the plants scape and fan and explained how to tell how many more blooms to expect. The fan is the part of the foliage that appears at the base of the plant. This group of leaves looks like a fan. The scape is a stalk from which blooms appear. Each scape has enough blooms to last about three weeks.
Over time, a daylily plant produces numerous fans, with the number depending on the variety. The plant can be divided by separating a multifan clump.
Eden Prairie grows slowly and does not require frequent dividing. When planted 18 to 20 inches apart, the foliage will grow thick enough to help keep weeds under control.
The smaller Stella dOro multiplies quickly. If you dont divide it often, the plants get crowded and bloom production slows. Also, unless you plant them really close together, youll be pulling weeds instead of pretty blooms
Daylilies bloom from May to December, depending on which variety you choose.