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 http://www.greatlakesgathering.com/ . If you’d like to read more about Nikki or start following her blog, that link can be found here http://zoominblooms.blogspot.com/