Sunday, March 6, 2011

Meet Cindy Dye of Homeplace Gardens

    ‘In passionate pursuit of the best’ is the motto of Ken and Cindy Dye of Homeplace Gardens, located in zone 7 Gastonia, North Carolina. Cindy’s mother and grandmother were both avid gardeners and that helped to encourage her love of all things green and growing. Ken’s mother was a collector of cactus and Cindy often jokes that she married Ken for his mothers greenhouse. Cindy married Ken at the age of twenty and spent fifteen years managing a retail pharmacy. The couple have now been married for 35 years and have two children, both sons and two granddaughters. Her first daylily was gifted to her in 1983, when she was 29, by one of the pharmacists she worked with. She soon joined a local daylily society where she met Van Sellers and Red Nolan. After returning to home after the first meeting she jokingly told Ken that she had joined a ‘Senior Citizen’ club. As with many of us with extensive collections, Cindy started with the cheaper, easily attainable hybrids, filling her new landscape with the myriad of colors available. A few years later, she began to dab a bit of pollen, eventually registering her first daylily in 1994. Four years later, in 1998, she hosted her first Regional Meeting and a National Convention in 2003. Cindy was eventually joined in hybridizing by Ken in 2000.

Tet Linda Gluck
      Cindy considers herself an ‘intuitive’ hybridizer, listening to others with more knowledge and experience and then using her own instincts to pursue her goals. These goals have changed as many times as daylilies themselves have. Currently she’s breeding for full sized, extra large flowers with patterned eyes and edges with teeth. Cindy prefers to use her own seedlings for line breeding and sibling crosses, only out crossing when another hybridizer creates an outstanding cultivar that she feels she needs in her lines. “No trade secrets here - just persistence and passion.” Cindy lists Van Sellers as one of the biggest influences on her daylily career lending his experience and advice. “How great to be mentored by a Stout winnter, says Cindy, Van was always “honest without being discouraging.”
Homeplace Angel Face
     1000 seeds are planted every year, this number is down from the usual 2000. “I like to think I am making smarter crosses and need less seed. Sometimes we will get 6 intros from those and sometimes 2. Its takes a lot to impress us now.” Seedlings take up residence in the gardens for three years before being culled since space isn’t an issue in the Dye garden. Seedlings to be used as bridge plants must exhibit at least one of the traits currently being bred for. As of right now She’s working on an eight inch, edge no eye diploid conversion, hoping to get it ready for registration soon. “ My best cultivar so far is the one that will bloom NEXT year!”

All Creation Sings
     Past favorites are the ones that people write to her about and send pictures of. Homeplace Cherry Face won Cindy her first Honorable Mention. All Creation Sings seems to be a customer favorite and is the one most often mentioned in customer emails. It has superb hardiness with a chicken fat edge that never seems to hang up and it won the Hybridizers Award for Region 15 in 2009. Another favorite is an unusual brown miniature with a green throat call Chaco Taco, Cindy says it’s a love it or hate it flower. To be considered registration worthy at Homeplace Gardens a seedling must exhibit good foliage, and a big helping of ‘pizazz‘. “It certainly does not hurt if visitors shed tears upon seeing it for the first time and ask to take their photograph standing beside it . But seriously, I ask myself, would I buy that and would I mind feeding, watering, mulching, deadheading, and dividing it in 100 degree heat? Its amazing how discriminating one can be in southern humidity.”

Homeplace Hot Shot
     Downsizing is the name of the game at Homeplace these days. At age 55, Cindy feels her energy would be better spent on hybridizing than on regular perennial borders. Only favorite cultivars and those used specifically designated for use in hybridizing are being kept. Less favorite daylilies are being replaced by low maintainence trees, shrubs and hardscaping. Both Sons used to help in the gardens and showed daylilies in the youth division, until they both grew to old to participate. While they’re both quite knowlegable about plants, they prefer fishing to daylilies. Her granddaughters have taken over the youth showings and have small collections of their own. Their names appear in several of the Dye’s registrations. Ken is the main garden helper these days and is a very good hybridizer himself. Along with daylilies the couple collects evergreen trees, sedums and unusual perennials, pushing the limits of their zone 7 garden by creating microclimates. Container gardens are placed throughout the borders, in direct line with the irrigation systems so they don’t have to be hand watered.

     When asked about how she would like to see the AHS proceed in the future, she said “I think the AHS should spend more resources on promoting daylilies in magazines,etc by advertising National Conventions the same way other flower shows advertise to the gardening public.” Cindy won the Region 15 Jeffcoat Hybridizers Award in 2009 and Ken later won it in 2010. The state inspected garden is open to the public in June by appointment only, since the couple attend so many national and regional conventions. The Website for Homeplace Gardens can be found here


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Meet Gerda Brooker of Victorian Gardens

Born and raised in Dusseldorf, Germany, Gerda Brooker, completed school, including earning the equivalent of an MBA and met her future husband there as well.  She immigrated to the U.S to marry her sweetheart.  Shortly after that the couple moved to Puerto Rico for several years.  They spent several years in Puerto Rico, before moving back to the states, eventually settling in Ohio.  To be more specific, they settled in the Cleveland area, where they raised two children.  Gerda got a job at a local radio station, where she would produce and record up to 14 hours per week of shows, from classical to talk radio to hit parade, all in German.  During her time in Cleveland she also worked with a travel agency.  In the late sixties, she and her husband split up and she met and married Malcom Brooker Sr. in 1973.  She had two children from her first marriage and he had three, instantly increasing the size of the family.  In 1980, Gerda started her own travel agency, which she decided to resign from several years later to focus on the more domestic side of her life, like cooking, cleaning and raising children.  Malcom and Gerda began their love affair with daylilies in 1994, after meeting and touring Steve Moldovan's gardens.   He then directed them to other great sources for daylilies, like Bill Munson, David Kirchoff, The Salters and Stamiles, which of course led to them meeting The Kinnebrews and Dan Hansen, etc.  To date they have registered 96 cultivars.  In 2002 Malcom Sr. passed away from a very brief, but very brave battle with cancer.  The loss of Malcom didn’t stop Gerda from carrying on the work they both loved to do.  Malcom Jr. has followed in his father’s footsteps and when he’s not working as CEO for a local insurance agency, he’s hybridizing and introducing his own registrations.  These days Gerda splits her time between hybridizing, her book club, the five children and nine grandchildren.  She says, “As for me, I am in for as long as God allows me to function and breathe.”
Michael Bennett x Shallow Waters (future)

In 1994, while back in Germany helping to care for her mother after hip surgery, Malcom called and  said  "Guess what I am doing?"  As it turns out, he was pollinating everything in the garden and at that time they had already amassed a sizable collection from other hybridizers.  After returning to Ohio, Gerda jumped on the bandwagon too.  “All in all we were a team but did our separate thing. We would ask each other questions and share out thoughts, and tried to be the first one out  in the garden at hybridizing time to make a cross on that last bloom of a particular daylily. My husband always beat me to it. I accused him of going out at 3 in the morning with a flashlight, prying open a bloom to set pollen on it. We both laughed about that. I have heard it said a few times that my husband would have been one of the greatest hybridizers around, and I believe it, too.”  This was the beginning of Victorian Gardens.

She credits four outstanding hybridizers as being the biggest inspirations and mentors, but there are so many more.  First is Steve Moldovan, he offered immediate encouragement, praising Gerda’s eye for color and detail.  She says it was Steve that taught her those things to begin with.  “He would bring me to a seedling and say "Look at this, there is so much going on in this flower" He would point to the eye, the nuances of colors, and all the intricate details in the pleating and ruffles etc.I still do this to this day.”  David Kirchoff is a charming and intelligent man and his advice for the Brookers is “IT IS DAYLILIES, ENJOY AND DON'T FRET!”  You can’t mention The David and not mention Mort Morss in the same breath.  How can you not like someone who names a daylily after you?  “I do see Mort as much of the backbone of Daylily World and both their talents combined make it what it is. A great place to visit, and some of the most wonderful daylilies.”  Mike Holmes, he knows so much about daylilies because he talks to everybody and retains the important facts.  His enthusiasm will get you going every time.  Larry Grace lends his keen business sense, loyalty and work ethic and his great hybridizing talents.

These days, Gerda is breeding more for eye patterns with teeth.  “When I see the daylily bloom at actual bloom time, all my plans from the previous day might go out the window.”  Keeping her breeding program in mind, she uses only the best (in her opinion) eye patterns, color clarity and plant habit she can get her hands on.  “After many mistakes, I have learned Great x Great does not always produce Great.  So it is what they call, luck of the draw.”  While she breeds for bigger and better, but still likes to keep the excitement of hybridizing alive at bloom time, sometimes the surprises are better than the expectations.  She tries to use fresh pollen, but as always sometimes has to rely on frozen pollen.  Pollen is collected and stored in the freezer the same day.  

Crosses are marked with plastic bread tags.  Seeds are dried in stackable  After six weeks in the fridge they get planted into trays.  When they first started out in hybridrizing, Gerda and Malcom would make and plant around 14,000 seeds every year with a germination rate of around 70%.  Now the number has dropped to a much more manageable 1,000 with a 75-80% germination rate.  Malcom Jr. does between 8,000 and 10,000 seeds every year.  The introduction rate is somewhere around 1%, but “getting there is half the fun.”

All seedlings receive a number when selected for evaluation and are transplanted to a separate ‘keepers’ bed.  All beds are numbered and have six rows each.  The rows are listed A-F and Gerda maintains and inventory list.  If a selected seedling remains selected after three years, it is eventually lined out and increased for registration and eventual sale, depending on the rate of increase.
ABBA X 53399  32ht, x 7 inch (future)

Gerda lists deer as the biggest challenge faced in her display garden.  Liquid fence  just make the deer laugh and they ask for their daylilies with a little bit of hot sauce to bring out the flavor.  The location is good for visitors, so the deer are tolerated…poorly.  Seedlings, however, are grown on a piece of family property a few miles away that is surrounded by electric fencing.  The gardens and seedlings are a bit much for just one or two people to deal with on their own and Gerda mentions two outstanding paid employees, but there are also the grandchildren who come to help with shipping and weeding, among others.  Michael Bennett, who worked there for ten years, until Gerda pushed him on to bigger and better.  A fellow daylily lover, Mercy Ermakov, shows up when needed despite her own busy family life.

While reluctant to name a ‘crowning achievement’ (as has everyone else) she does list some of her favorite introductions Sweet Isabella (one of my favorites), Princess  Sophia, Michael Bennett (very nice), Rolling Thunder and Echoes Of Love.  Then there are the ones she introduced for Malcom Sr., Ironman, River Of Light, Secret Weapon, Belle Cook and Reach for The Sky (another of my favorites).  Gerda tries not to take any aspect of this hobby/business too seriously, which has ‘run amok’ in her yard.  “I do, however, strive for excellence in every order I ship.  I have learned lots from previous mistakes and my goal is to ship double fans with an excellent root systems on the new introductions.”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to registering seedlings.  While beauty is important, so is plant habit, branching, height and bud count.  “I have seen a lot of changing trends in everybody’s hybridizing programs.  It is a fashion show to me and mostly the newest fashions are the most popular, with some of us still appreciating some of the outstanding oldies.”  Gerda says the AHS is running things very well, providing all daylilies with recognition.

Victorian Garden is an AHS display garden and is open for visits starting the end of June and the garden is open all season.  A phone call ahead of time is greatly appreciated.  The website for Brooker introductions can be found here
Garden June 2010

Seedling bed at the farm





Sunday, February 6, 2011

Meet Judy Davisson

Judy and Gloria Hite
             Who could have guessed that growing up on a 180 acre Aberdeen Angus Cattle farm in Iowa would be inspiration for creating some of the most beautiful, but lesser known daylilies on the market.  Judy (Davi) Davisson grew up on said farm, with her parents and three sisters.  The family also raised soy beans, chickens, oats and vegetables.  The property was originally owned by her grandparents.  Judy’s grandmother started the one acre flower garden surrounding the house.  She grew peonies and roses, lilacs and every other perennial she could get her hands on, including H. Evelyn Claar (Krausse 1949) which she bought when it was the latest and greatest.  Glenn, Judy’s husband, was raised on a very similar family farm, growing oats, corn, dairy cattle and three boys.  Davi earned her BA from the University of Northern Iowa and did her post graduate at the University of Illinois, where Glenn earned his degree also.  Not long after, Glenn got a job with General Motors and the couple moved to Michigan.  Davi worked as an accountant and taught accounting systems to businesses while raising their one son, Adam.  Adam now lives near Savannah, GA as an Engineer with his wife Abby and their two year old son Michael.  Six years ago, Glenn and Judy made the decision to retire to North Carolina, so they sold off the house and furniture so they could haul the entire garden with them.  At least they had their priorities straight. 
Carolina Cool Down

                “My main goal is to create extra- large flowers with fancy faces and interesting shapes on extra tall, well-branched scapes with stellar, northern hardy plants under them.  I love appliques, watermarks, bitones, clean colors, and fragrance.... and like to combine these.  I also have a line of tet miniatures that are sculptural that I will continue to develop.”    With daylilies in general, Judy would like to see more originality.  She feels that there are too many new directions that have yet to be explored for copycats to be introduced.   “All it takes is creative thinking, focus, and the patience to carry it through many generations of line breeding.”  Judy credits 3 hybridizers with being her mentors and biggest inspirations.  Howard Hite helped her to gain the know how to develop plants that didn’t even exist at the time.  Tetraploid, unusual forms with plenty of motion were hard to come by then, without using any diploid conversions that is.  Next she mentioned Al Goldner who inspired her to work on creating carefree, disease free plants with self cleaning habits.  Hardiness and tall sturdy scapes are also important.  Curt Hanson rounds out the trio, he taught her to do what makes her happy instead of following the pack.  Curt was also very generous with his plants and he lends more inspiration year after year.

                When actually deciding what crosses to make, she studies each plant, trying to determine what  could be done to make it more unique.  She never makes a cross unless she has a specific goal in mind with that particular plant or flower.  This is some advice I should take myself, but I can’t seem to let a flower go unpollinated.  In the 30 years she has been growing daylilies and hybridizing, she’s tried a variety of methods for storing pollen.  Fresh pollen dried in the house under air conditioning is the best, but Judy also uses frozen pollen, stored in gel caps or centriguge tubes.  For 2011, she’ll be trying out the matchbox storage method.  You just have to find what works for you.  Long crosses are marked with wires or colored paper clips, but bread tags are used for short crosses and hanging tags if supplies of the others run out.  Seeds are stored in paper coin envelopes in large plastic jars with lids in the refrigerator, leaving little room for food.  She usually starts between 1,500 and 6,000 seeds every year, with maybe 50 of them reaching evaluation status.

                First year seedling blooms are culled for bad colors.....murky colors will never improve.  She immediately composts  any that are mauve.  She REALLY doesn't like mauve!  Second year seedling blooms are culled for being ordinary looking or looking like an already registered cultivar or looking like a lesser version of one of the parents.  These seedlings make wonderful gifts for the neighbors!  Third and fourth year seedlings are culled for plant habit (foliage, buds and branching), vigor, and overall presentation in a clump.   Fifth year seedlings will be culled if they sulk after being divided into single fans or have crowns that making dividing difficult.  “I don't think I'll ever consider my cultivars "done enough" to be called a crowning achievement, but I love the colors I'm getting in my rose and lavender lines and have some great oranges coming up from A BLOOM WITH A VIEW.  DAVI'S DILEMMA is an example of a nice rose color and CAROLINA COOL DOWN is a great lavender.  The flowers I named for people I care about will always be special to me.”

                “Increase is much faster here than where I lived in Michigan because of our longer growing season, but seed isn't as easy to set when it gets hot.    We get a lot of extreme freeze/thaw cycles that go on all winter long, so I don't grow many evergreens, they really suffer.   I prefer dormants and semi-evergreens, they grow better here because they go safely underground and stay there for our crazy winters where it can be 60 degrees one day and 18 the next day.  This area of North Carolina has very heavy, red clay soil which makes digging difficult, so I have to create raised beds to make digging easier.  And it is also very dry in the summer so I need a watering system.”  Judy is also working on paring down the introductions from other people to make more room for her own seedlings.  “In the winter, I make an Excel spreadsheet with the pod and pollen parents of each cross and the number of seeds in each seedpod using the information that I have written on the paper coin envelopes when I harvested the seed.   At the same time I sort thru the seeds and throw out ones that are not developed, soft, moldy, etc.  The spread sheet is alphabetized according to pod parent and the crosses are then numbered 1 thru whatever.    I use the number to keep track of my crosses while they are soaking (to verify germination) in condiment cups and later, the same number is used on pot markers.   I start seeds in cheap Wal-Mart foam cups in the house, harden them off on a sunny porch for a month, and plant them in the ground after danger of freeze has passed in the spring.   I am able to plant some seeds (from early blooming daylilies) directly in the ground in the fall after refrigerating the seeds for 6 weeks.   I plant seedlings VERY close together due to lack of space and have a three year rotation on seedling beds.  Seedlings planted in the ground take 2 years to bloom.   The first year of bloom, I remove the most promising seedlings to give them their own space and cull out the bad colors to give the remaining plants more room to grow.   The second year of bloom, I will again pull out anything that looks promising, and that fall what's left in the bed is thrown out to make a fresh bed for next spring's planting.”

“I think the AHS is already on the right track in trying to make the AHS more attractive to new members.   The AHS portal being developed is a really exciting.....the technical committee is working hard to make it a user friendly place.   Meg Ryan is doing a wonderful job as editor of the The Journal and Kevin Walek has made registering daylilies so much easier.   Mary Collier Fisher is doing a great job as President, working hard to make the AHS more exciting during tough economic times with a lot of fresh ideas.   There are a LOT of volunteers working very hard already, so the AHS is in very good hands.  The only thing that needs improving is exhibition show rules and judges education, which always seems to lag behind due to the evolving multi-forms that are being developed.”

                Glenn, who she calls her ‘Wildlife Manager With A Truck’ is the one who removes unwanted animals that may wander into the gardens.  He is also the turfgrass specialist, while Judy takes care of the daylilies by herself.  There garden is located in a deed restricted neighborhood and is considered a hobby/ hybridizing garden.  She sells excess stock twice a year on the Lily Auction and from her website.    Hybridizers and friends are welcome to stop by, just make sure you call first to see if they’re home.   If they’re not home, Judy is most likely out fly fishing or hiking in the surrounding mountains.  They also enjoy boating and fishing on Lake Norman.  “North Carolina is a beautiful state and it's all "new" to us to explore.”  

“A very wise person once told me to not make daylilies your whole life or it will make you crazy.... so I try to lead a balanced life with friends and neighbors who do other things and work in community service gives perspective to growing daylilies and keeps it fun.”    

Seedling photos can be seen here

Introduction photos can be seen here

Judy with Ken Wilke and JD Stadler

Judy Fishing

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Meet Sally Marcum of Willowbrook Acres and Hemchat

Sally Marcum

Willowbrook Touch Of Midnight (2007)
Willowbrook Jurrasic Amber (2008)
Willowbrook Snappy Dresser (2008)

     Ever wonder where you can chat with knowledgeable daylily hybridizers
and growers in real time?  If you answered yes, then just maybe hemchat
would be the place for you too. started out as
and was owned by Mike Longo, owner of The Lily Auction.  The site had
around 140 members with approximately 1/3 of them actively chatting.  In
2008, shut down without any warning and everyone was told
that it wouldn’t be back.  That’s when Sally Marcum, owner of
Willowbrook Acres, stepped up and gave us all a ‘home’ to come back to.
“I have experience with the internet and computers, but I knew very little
about a chat room...When it closed, I felt like I should find a daylily chat
room for our members.  I started shopping around for chat software and
asking around what I needed to put up a chatroom.  One being the owner of
a chat that was similar to the room we were used to using.  That owner put
me in touch with Miles Trolly, a technician in Kentucky, that has experience
putting up chat rooms.  His price was right so I hired him.”

    Once someone was working on chat software, the next step was to
find a server to host the software.  Sally was familiar with
since they hosted the previous room, so that made the decision easier.
“Miles was a great person to work with.  He taught me how to manage the
site and to access chat room files on Blue Host through a managers area.  I
learned how to put up new animated icons using a specific set of codes in a
specific file area.  One extra dot or squiggle in the line of code could crash
the whole site.  It was very necessary I learn how to avoid a catastrophe by
backing up the file before I began to add anything.”  Occasionally she will
back up the entire site, just in case Blue Host itself crashes.

    “We welcome new members that want to discuss daylilies, plant
material and gardening.  To join, new members must provide a full name
and address and email address, a chat name and a password.  The link to
joining us is, click on the Hemchat Room tab, then click
on the Register link.  Registration is not automatic.  I will receive the email
and will set up the name and password so the person can log in.  I then
email the person that the log in is ready.”  The is an ‘Ugliest Dog’ contest
and a ‘Chatter’s Favorite’ contest for seedlings.  Everyone that uses the
room is a fount of knowledge.  We each do our best to respect the opinions
of others.  Swearing, political and religious topics and flaming (personal
attacks) are not allowed and will get you quickly banned from the site.  Big
Chief Thundercloud (Sally’s persona as moderator) takes his job very
seriously.  The chat room is supported by member donations and out of Sally's
own pocket.

    “Willow Brook Acres is now an American Hemerocallis Society
Display Garden that grew out of a love of gardening and amazement with
the most interesting and beautiful perennial garden plant, the daylily.
Willow Brook Acres is a state licensed daylily nursery.”  Sally’s love of
gardening began 20 years ago.  The mowing takes less and less time as the
gardens continue to expand.  Her husband John is the head groundsman and
makes sure everything from mulching to edging to mowing is done and
everything runs as smoothly as possible.  Sally is the hybridizer.  She started
growing daylilies about ten years ago and as with so many others, the
obsession continues to grow.  Visitors to Willowbrook Acres in Norwalk,
Ohio will see over 1,000 registered daylilies and many other perennials.
The gardens were part of the region 2 2010 regional tours last summer.  “I
hope to downsize to about 500 very good daylilies I will use in my breeding
program.  I will no longer be selling older cultivars $10 or under.  It is hard
to let some of them go.  I just can’t take care of the amount I have been
taking care of for 15 years.  My total emphasis will be my dabbing and my

    Sally starts between 300 and 500 seeds per year, some from her own
breeding and some purchased from the lilyauction.  “I will have 2 intros for
2011.  My hybridizing program is small and it takes several years to
increase a daylily that is good enough to register.  I have a standard of 3 way
branching and 15 buds before I will register a daylily.  A reblooming
seedling gets some priority so if it is a few buds short of my standard, I
might still register it.”  Pat Stamile is one of her favorite hybridizers.  They
are widely available and it’s hard to beat a stamile for a pretty face.  But,
one of the most influential people on how Sally actually grows daylilies is
Rick Yost.  I have a large collection of Yost daylilies.  They are northern
hardy and well branched.  Rick is a long time chat member.  His influence
comes from sharing with me, and others, his vast knowledge of hybridizing
and growing daylilies.”

    To label crosses, Sally uses the paper string tags for the most part,
although colored wires are sometimes used for long crosses or planned
crosses.  Wires can get confusing and they also have a tendency to fade.
“When I harvest a ripe pod, I put it into a brown paper lunch bag.  I write
the pod parent on the outside of the bag.  The string tag is inside the bag
with the pod.  I keep the seeds, in it’s pod, in the bag for a day or two, or
more actually.  When I take the seeds out of the pods, I let them air dry in
the open bag over night.  Then I put all of one cross into a labeled, small,
plastic, Ziploc bag.  It is helpful to put a square of paper towel in with the
seeds.  It does absorb any extra moisture.  I put them in the refrigerator right
away.  They stay there until I plant them.”

    Sally loves wild flowers, herbs and nature.  If a plant brings colors
and textures and also attracts hummingbirds or butterflies to the garden,
then she probably wants to try growing it.  Zinnias are among her favorite
annual for the afore mentioned reason.  Blue Salvia, both perennial and
annual, also have a special place in the gardens.  While she does love hostas
and iris’, she prefers a more naturalized landscape.  “When something
appears in the garden, I will let it grow even if it’s not a cultivated plant.  I
once identified a common weed/wildflower called wingstem and tagged it
for identification purposes.  It is a tall, sturdy plant that grew perfectly
behind a daylily.”  To set it all off, Sally is also a Master Gardener and has
been for the last 10 years.  Master Gardeners are not masters of the garden.
They are volunteers in the community that are dedicated to gardening.  “We
are volunteers with knowledge.  Not the other way around.”  While she has
held office in the local group, her favorite place to be is in the dirt, helping
to beautify her town or working in a community garden.

    The advice Sally would like to give to beginning hybridizers is to
“Just Do It.  Don’t wait until you know it all or have the best plants.  It is all
about loving the daylily and making new ones.  If you have the passion, do

    Sally’s website is you can find sales
plants and her introductions and seedlings there.  Visitors are welcome by
appointment or you can take your chances that the couple will be around
and just stop by before dark.  We all look forward to seeing new members i
the chat room.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Meet Region 2 President Nikki Schmith

Nikki Schmith

Hail to the chief, or at least the American Hemerocallis Society Region 2 President Nikki Keeton Schmith.  Nikki has a background in secondary education, theater/performance and political science, all of which she uses in her day to day life.  If she’s not at her day job as a corporate trainer and education specialist at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn,  Michigan, then she may be tending to her small urban garden with it’s 250 registered daylilies and assorted perennials.  If she’s not there, then perhaps she’s chasing after her triathlete husband Steve and their 5 year old son or maybe she’s on her computer writing her blogs ‘A Girl and Her Garden’ and the 'Region 2 Presidents Blog' or working on her next, Thursday daylily haiku.  Still haven’t found her?  Then maybe she’s at a daylily convention or speaking at a club or designing her next entry in a flower show.  If you haven’t caught on yet, Nikki Schmith is one busy girl and she likes it that way.

Nikki fist started growing daylilies about 20 years ago.  She was attracted their registered names, the stories behind them and the little personalities they all seemed to have.  Once she saw how easy they were to grow, she was hooked!  At this point she grows somewhere around 250 registered cultivars on a postage stamp sized lot in Detroit, Michigan, every year testing out new plants to see what does well in her garden and donating or selling what doesn’t.  Beyond daylilies, Nikki is also really into miniature hostas, true lilies (especially the uber fragrant orientals and orientpets) and container gardening.  She approaches container gardening like she does gardening in the ground, just on a much, much smaller scale.  If you haven’t seen it yet, look at her fairy garden pictures.

Not only that, but she does a bit of dabbing also.  “Currently, I’m growing 125 selected seedlings of my own.  This number helps me keep the collection under control.  If I want to save another seedling, I have to find one to get rid of.  I cull about 30 a year and I have been growing seed for about 6 years.  My first seedlings (if they are even worthy of being called seedlings) bloomed in the summer of 2004.  It makes the process much easier to have a set number of seedling to stick to when evaluating.  I’d like to do some community good with the money that can be made selling any registered plants I would ever put out to market.  I’m still cooking up a plan to make that happen when I’m ready to introduce some daylilies.”

 Nikki hybridizes for better show flowers, trying to get colors that stay saturated and true both inside and outside.  Substance also has to be able to hold up to being inside or out, something that won’t melt in either environment.  “Using plants like H. ‘Momentum,’ H. ‘Bittersweet Holiday,’ H. ‘See Me Feel Me Touch Me,’ H. ‘Pink Cotton Candy,’ H. ‘Butter Cream’ and H. ‘Martha In Chains’ are getting me closer to what I’d like to see in the seedling bed.”  Mostly she just tries to do her own thing, staying away from the trends of teeth, blue eyes or patterns, which by the way are some of my favorites.  “I just want a hearty and hardy plant with an uncomplicated face that can stop a clock.” She says.  A great daylily is one that you see and love instantly.  “I am drawn to full-formed, extra large flowers that are not spiders or unusual forms.  Flowers that are excellent "show flowers" tend to catch my attention, too.  This means they have wonderful branching, sturdy scapes, a tendency to have more than one bloom open on a scape, saturated color and thick substance.”

She is very interested in the earlier, female, hybridizers such as Sikes, Peck, Spalding, Hansen and Henry.  “In my mind's eye I place them chronologically in the history of the United States and find that with everything "going on" in our country and in our homes during their lifetimes, it is amazing to me they kept hybridizing and introducing daylilies despite pressure to be traditional or otherwise.”  We need to get hybrid daylilies back into the good graces of the general public, raise awareness about what amazing garden plants they are, inform people that they’re not just short gold’s and tall oranges.  We need to raise daylilies out of elitism.

As for how one becomes president of the largest region of the AHS, for Nikki Schmith it was as easy as being asked and then accepting.  There is a two consecutive term limit on regional presidency, although after one term off, an individual could run again.  “I feel a sense of duty to the AHS, and this is another way I can help promote our mission and vision.”  As president, Nikki was instrumental in getting a new regional website built and restructuring the AHS Media Library, the use of online storage for several AHS functions, rewriting the AHS Judging Handbook and the standardization and creation of the Power Point presentation used for the Exhibition Judges Clinic I.  She says this about the AHS, “Like any almost-all volunteer organization, change takes time.  I am very encouraged by the bright thinkers and really, really, sharp volunteers that staff the AHS committees.  Sure, there is a wish list eight miles long of things we could do, should do, ought to do, but in AHS board meetings I’ve attended, projects get prioritized and completed to the best of our ability.  Are they the right ones, well, who knows, but if I don’t like the direction, the only recourse I have is to PICK UP MY PADDLE AND HELP THE BOAT GO IN ANOTHER DIRECTION.  I would like to see more folks who comment on the robin or in smaller forums or personal blogs step up and actually take a committee position.  There is lots of good rhetoric, and I'd like to see an equal amount of actual sweat put into some of the keyboard comments that are lobbed and thrown about.  Writing about an issue is easy, working toward a real result with your name on the list of responsible parties is a bit harder.”  

Nikki is chairing the 2011 Region 2 Summer Meeting in Troy, Michigan, July 15-17 and would like to invite everyone to attend.  There will be several open garden tours, scheduled garden stops, exhibition judge workshops, an off-scape daylily exhibit, live auction and the key note speaker will be Jamie Gossard of Heavenly Gardens.  That website can be found here .  If you’d like to read more about Nikki or start following her blog, that link can be found here