This summer, Micheal Anders, Ph.D., is spending quality time with Buttered Popcorn, Jamaican Me Crazy and Red Headed Hussy.
“They’re just like people – they’re all different,” said Anders of daylilies, which have captured a great deal of his time and attention for more than a decade. Anders, who recently retired from the frenzied pace of full-time work as The University of Findlay’s music professor, is so enamored of these perennials that he has approximately 1,900 different cultivars growing around his Findlay home. Planted alongside hostas, statuary and whimsical ornamentation are flowers of varying shapes, sizes and colors. On the north side, they line a curvy grass path that meanders under a wrought iron arch. In the backyard are large daylily islands that receive shade from an ash tree that Anders has taken great pains to save from the Emerald Ash Borer blight. There are blooms as large as an adult’s hand, spidery petals that curl downward, and ruffled ridges surrounding glowing centers.
“I’m a sucker for bright yellows,” said Anders. “The eyes go right to them,” whereas the darker reds and purples (his other favorites) tend to recede into the background. Each, however, has its own endearing qualities, and should be appreciated with a close eye, he explained. Their hues and structures, both brash and subtle, begged to be admired. Some, for instance, are spotted, and some have stripes. “You have to stop and enjoy them,” Anders insisted. The latest and most popular registered cultivars can sell for up to $300 per plant, but there are many that can be purchased for $5, Anders noted. He even grows some that date back to the 1940s, as well as one of the “original” daylilies, Fulva Europa, also known to many as the “ditch lily.”
Names like Lemon Elektra and Cluster Muster are also hard to ignore. Anders can recall the moniker for many that he has planted, but still has each one labeled.
More images of Anders’ gorgeous blooms are featured this Flickr album.
His daylily interest began when he was a child. A neighbor had given his grandmother some plants to grow, and they thrived. But his own collecting started in 2003 or 2004. During one visit to Southeast Texas, his mother’s daylilies were in bloom, and, having “always loved gardens,” he decided to take some of them home to Northwest Ohio. “They just took off,” he said.
Anders likes daylilies for their easy growing habits and varied appearances. “They’re so easy. Once you plant them they do their thing,” he said. They can thrive in dry weather but also like water, which is a good thing, given this summer’s numerous downpours. They’re showy without being obscene; they return each year; and they look different every day, given that each bloom only lasts one day, thus their name. Their maintenance is also minimal, he said; Japanese beetles don’t bother daylilies much, but the deer like to munch on buds like “they’re candy,” he said.
He favors several breeders, many of them from the region and the state. The late Steve Moldovan from Avon Lake, who loved purple, is one of them. “I’m trying to collect all 466 of his registered daylilies. I’m over halfway there,” said Anders. He also has
some unregistered cultivars bred by several Ohio residents, including Findlay Sharon DeCooman.
Get Anders talking about these plants and he’ll also relay some lesser-known facts about them. For instance, they originated in China and Korea. They are members of the grass family. They are not a true lily, given that they spread via rhizomes rather than bulbs. And some parts are edible; Anders said he has recipes but hasn’t been brave enough to try any yet.
Anders considers gardening an art, but one that is easily practiced. He provides this simple tip for growing daylilies or any other plant: “Just do it. If you mess up, you can fix it next year,” he said.
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