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Beauty for a day: Daylilies will take center stage at regional meeting

June 1st, 2013 11:59 pm by Marci Gore

Beauty for a day: Daylilies will take center stage at regional meeting

The King's Port Daylily will be the focus of one talk during the regional meeting hosted by the Tri-Cities Daylily Society in June.

With tens of thousands of varieties to choose from, the daylily is one of the most popular perennials among gardeners.

Susan Okrasinski first discovered the daylily about 10 years ago when she stumbled across a local gardener selling some plants.

“I wasn’t much of a gardener before that, but I bought some of her daylilies and when I went to pick them up — she had to dig them up for me  — I saw that she had more blooming and I just kept buying and buying, and I’ve been hooked ever since,” said Okrasinski, who lives in Fall Branch.

A daylily’s bloom only lasts one day. The word “daylily”  actually comes from the Greek word meaning “beauty for a day.”

“Although the plant, during its bloom season produces many, many blooms and has lots of branches, each bloom only lasts a day,” said Okrasinski, who serves as regional publicity director for the Tri-Cities Daylily Society.

Later this month, the Tri-Cities Daylily Society will play host to the American Hemerocallis Society (AHS) Region 10 summer meeting and garden tour. Region 10 is comprised of Tennessee and Kentucky.

“Gather at the Meadow” is set for June 21 and 22, with home base for the meeting being at Kingsport’s MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center.

The event will include garden tours, lunch at the Natural History Museum at the Gray Fossil Site, a banquet, awards, plant auction and speakers Mike and Sandy Holmes from Riverbend Garden in Ohio.

“This is only the third time we have hosted this meeting. It only happens maybe once every 10 years or less. It’s a tremendous deal for us to get to host the meeting,” said Okrasinski.

The tour will begin in Bloomingdale with Dennis Marshall’s daylily garden. In addition to daylilies, Marshall also has a vineyard and an extensive calla lily collection.

“The exciting thing about all of the gardens on this tour is they are all so different and all offer other unique aspects to them besides just daylilies,” Okrasinski said.

The next stop on the tour will be Pearline Malone’s garden.

“Pearline lives out in Afton, Tenn., not that far from Jonesborough. What’s unique about her garden is she also raises cattle,” Okrasinski said.

Malone and her friend, Ingrid Lane, may be familiar faces to folks in Kingsport. During the summer months, the duo can be found at the Kingsport Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays and Saturdays selling their daylilies.

The third garden on the tour is Janice and David Banner’s two-acre daylily garden, located near the Gray Fossil Site.

Following a barbecue lunch at the site, Okrasinski said the group will travel to its fourth and final garden of the day in Alexander, N.C., to Bob Selman and Dale Hensley’s Blue Ridge Daylilies.

“This garden is just outside of Asheville, N.C., and is unbelievable. There are about 25,000 to 30,000 different varieties grown here,” Okrasinski said.

Daylilies come in every color except for true white and true blue, which she says hybridizers like Selman and Hensley are very close to creating.

Okrasinski says because daylilies are one of the easiest plants to hybridize, the plant is constantly changing.

“I’ve been a hobbyist for about 10 years now, and I can’t believe how much they have changed in that short amount of  time,” she said. “People who hybridize say that’s where the fun is. They say it’s like Christmas every morning during bloom season to get up and see what’s opened in their seedling bed that nobody’s ever seen before.”

To hybridize a daylily, Okrasinski says you take the pollen off a stamen and touch it to the pistil from the plant with which you want to hybridize it.

“We are situated in a fantastic place to grow daylilies. Daylilies are generally classified as evergreen, which means they stay green all winter; semi-green, which means, depending on where they’re planted they might or might not grow all winter; and dormants, which disappear in the winter. We can grow all of these different varieties here; whereas, in the deep South, they can’t grow the dormants and in the north they have a lot of trouble with the evergreens. We also don’t have as much trouble with diseases that they do farther south of here,” she said.

The Tri-Cities Daylily Society was founded in 1990 by Bob Hale, a retired chemist with Eastman Chemical Company and has about 60 members.

Kingsport even has its own daylily. The King’s Port was hybridized a couple of years ago by Mike and Sandy Holmes, the speakers at this year’s meeting. Long-time Tri-City Daylily Society member, Doug Carson, suggested they name their new variety after Kingsport. The Holmes agreed, making a slight change to the spelling of Kingsport.

And another new variety the Holmeses recently hybridized is  named after something near and dear to Kingsport’s heart  — Bays Mountain.

The Holmeses will bring about 60 Bays Mountain Sunshine “fans” with them from their gardens in Ohio to share with those at the meeting. A daylily “fan” is an individual unit of a clump, containing leaves, crown and roots. Within a clump, each fan is genetically identical to the parent. Okrasinski says Bays Mountain Sunshine would normally sell for about $200 a fan.

“They probably won’t have enough Bays Mountain Sunshine to share with everyone, but they will fill this in with other daylilies from their collection,” Okrasinski said.

For more information about the Tri-City Daylily Society or for complete registration information about the summer meeting, including contact information and fees, visit

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