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Hemerocallis ‘Hyperion’ (‘Hyperion’ Daylily)

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Okay. Look at this flower. Then tell me how anyone can prefer the fat, bloated-petal daylilies that are in vogue now.

I know this won’t make me popular with daylily breeders. I’ve even looked at picures of the new daylily types in catalogues and on blogs (okay, drat. I found a daylily blog with gorgeous pictures through Blotanical, but now I’m unable to perform the search that will lead me (and you) to it again. So here’s a place that specializes in daylilies, with well over 700 varieties–enough to prove my point) and websites. But then I take a look at the older types like Hyperion, with their graceful, wing-like shapes. And then I just don’t want to buy the newer types. No matter how pretty the colors, or how fetching the closeups. When you back off and look at newer daylilies as a whole, they just aren’t as graceful as the old types.

The closeups on Hyperion are no slouch, either. And you get to inhale. Because another thing a lot of modern plants are missing (and daylilies are no exception) is fragrance. Hyperion has a faint, freshly sweet scent, an added bonus.

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I think black-and-white does a better job than color when it comes to showing form and texture.

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But color’s fun to look at, too.

When a plant has been in gardens for over eighty years, you know that it has some lasting qualities that endear it to gardeners. Heirloom plants have passed the tests of time. Newer, bolder, brighter plants pass them by–and yet still people keep the old standards in their gardens.

Besides form and scent, and the power of memory, a lot of the reason for growing heirlooms is practical: heirloom garden plants tend to have a lot of that flexibility that gardeners such as myself find so appealing. When neglected, they spring back. They don’t require a lot of care. And they stand up to a number of different conditions. In this case, as you can see, this Hyperion doesn’t even have full sun; it’s growing in amongst the cedars, with a few hours of full sun a day. (The canna behind it also blooms in the same situation, but not very enthusiastically.)

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As a friend of mine once pointed out, daylilies make fine cutting flowers: each bloom lasts only a day, but you get several buds on the stem, and they can open in the vase just as well as on the plant. Daylilies are hardy enough to naturalize well, but they also do well in containers, where I’ve got mine. I bottom-water it by putting the big pot in a big plastic bulb pan, then filling the pan (now a saucer for the pot) with water. This gives the daylilies all they want to drink. Daylilies seem to prefer wet spots when they naturalize, but again, the older types are forgiving: they may not thrive if you have to let them dry out, but they will come back.

Daylilies are also edible, though I’ve only tried Hemerocallis fulva, which used to grow on the roadsides when I lived in New Jersey. As I recall, they were quite bland; I didn’t batter and fry them, as some recommend, because once you batter and fry something, you’re basically tasting oil and batter, with a touch of the texture of whatever’s in there. Euell Gibbons says that daylily buds and just-opened flowers are popular in some parts of Asia as a stir-fry vegetable and have a great taste. Maybe I picked them at the wrong time or cooked them the wrong way, but my memory of daylily flowers is that they are kind of soft and slimy. While they might be nice as a novelty or helpful as a food when nothing else is available, they’re not something I’d seek out. I prefer them on the plant or in the vase. Daylily tubers are also edible, but I’ve never tried eating them. Their tubers (not bulbs) are small, so you need a big stand of them to try.

The tubers (not bulbs) are a clue to clearing up a vexed subject: daylilies aren’t lilies, they are their own thing. Some misguided catalogues actually include daylilies in the lily section; I consider this a sign of a company to avoid. Good catalogues give a cross reference from lily to daylily, so we can learn what’s what and avoid the problems that might come up if we tried treating daylilies like lilies. Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus (formerly flava) is another older daylily I’d like to try (it’s been in cultivation since the 1600s). Like Hyperion, it is also lemon yellow-in fact, another name for it is Lemon Lily. (Very likely, Hyperion has Lemon Lily blood in it.) It’s also fragrant, gracefully narrow-petalled, and requires little care. Until I see a modern daylily that lives up to these standards, that will complete my daylily collection.

If you feel indignant about my spurning of newer daylily varieties, please feel free to leave an opinion. Preferably with some reference to pictures, so we can all judge for ourselves.

References:

Euell Gibbons, Stalking the Healthful Herbs, David McKay Company, Inc., 1966 (and reprinted many, many times since then)

McClure and Zimmerman catalogue, spring 2008

Old House Gardens catalogue, spring 2008-9

13 comments

1 Nancy Bond { 07.27.08 at 9:16 am }

Your heirloom lily is truly beautiful and you’ve captured it nicely. It reminds me of the huge clumps of orange “Tiger Lilies” my Mom always grew. :)

2 Pomona Belvedere { 07.31.08 at 6:20 am }

Nancy, thanks so much for the kind words from a Real Photographer. In my area, tiger lilies are actual lilies which have little spots on them and hang their heads. I’m wondering if the “tiger lilies” your mother grew were H. fulva, the roadside daylily? They are orange with streaky markings on, so in a way “tiger lily” is a better name for them than the for the spotted ones we have here.

That sentence got complicated.

Anyway, meanwhile, I found a blog about species daylilies, if you’re interested in taking a look: http://roycroftdaylilies.com/browse.

3 Kathy { 08.10.08 at 8:38 pm }

“Hyperion” was one of the first daylilies I planted in my cottage garden and this one never fails to please me. Blooms for weeks and smells so nice. I love scented plants and usually if I am trying to decide on a new plant for the garden, I hesitate to add one without fragrance. I did add my first double this year, “Siloam Double Classic”. They did bloom, two flowers on each plant and they were very pretty, but I don’t think I would ever prefer them over “Hyperion”. I am enjoying checking out your site, I found you through a link from the Old House Gardens Gazette.
Kathy

4 Pomona Belvedere { 08.12.08 at 3:39 am }

I’m with you on making fragrance a priority. I do acquire some plants that don’t have fragrance, but they have to have some pretty stellar qualities to get in my garden without it.

5 tina { 07.08.09 at 10:57 am }

I love Hyperion so much. It’s fragrance is the best! And like you said it really does well in the shade; which is where many of mine grow. Never tried a bud though.

6 Pomona Belvedere { 07.08.09 at 12:55 pm }

Tina, good to hear from another Hyperion fan, and interesting to know that H grows in semishade for you in your different climate.

7 Julie { 07.10.09 at 5:56 am }

I found this post on a search for someplace to buy Hyperion. I used to grow them and realized I need to grow them again after reading this: http://mizsilverthorn.typepad.com/miz_s/2009/07/mmmmm-daylilies.html

I couldn’t agree more with you about Hyperion’s grace compared to what seems to be popular now. The frilly, flat look of modern daylilies does nothing for me.

8 Liz Roberts { 09.20.09 at 9:41 pm }

I have just ordered my H Hyperion, and expecting it this week. Yes I agree the older more fragrant graceful types are for me too.

I also have H Citrina and Gutrid (one of H Citrina kids), both so sweetly fragrant, Gutrid is taller yet and fertile both ways and the foliage is gorgeous with the tall scapes.

I was looking for information about the fertility of Hyperion, does it set pods? So far Gutrid does but haven’t had one from H Citrina, but the pollen is very good.

Thanks for the added information
Liz

9 anne { 05.27.10 at 6:42 am }

I am so happy I found this site! My yellow Hyperion bloomed
just this morning. The color is clear lemon and not the same as all those awful gold Stellas I see blooming everywhere. I have another lily, common name is Ruby Throat, that is a rich red color with a touch of yellow inside. Beautiful. Like you, I love the old fashioned lilies and wish I could find the tiger lilies of old. Many thanks! Anne

10 Pomona Belvedere { 05.27.10 at 8:49 am }

Anne, I so agree with you about the merits of Hyperion v. Stella daylilies. I can’t see how anyone who put them side by side would want Stella. Your Ruby Throat sounds nice, also. Fortunately there seems to be a comeback of the older, more graceful ‘spider lily’ types, maybe at last we will see some modern ones that don’t look as if they’re bloated on steroids.

11 Nancy { 12.03.10 at 7:01 am }

HEMEROCALLIS HYBRID, BULBS 3-4 FANS, 18″ OC,
286 X GERTRUDE CONDON (ORANGE)
286 X LEEBA ORANGE CRUSH (ORANGE)
286 X MAUNA LOA (AMBER ORANGE)
286 X HYPERION (YELLOW)
286 X MARY TODD (SOFT YELLOW)
286 X BUTTERED POPCORN (YELLOW)
286 X ERIN PRAIRIE (GOLD)
285 X BENGALEER (DEEP YELLOW)
IRIS CRISTATA (CREAM IRIS), BULBS 3-4 FANS, 18″ OC

Hello! I am looking for these items, pleae email price and availability?
Thanks!

12 Anne { 06.21.11 at 11:31 am }

enjoyed reading this , just toured Tasha Tudor’s garden in Vermont..filled with old plants and trees…very lovely..Anne

13 Sylvia Evans { 07.07.11 at 10:53 am }

How can I keep my Hyperion Daylily buds from being eaten by deer? Last year every bud was eaten. This year I sprayed the plants with a repellent made by Bonide according to directions…I had 3 to 4 blooms and one morning discovered every bud had been chomped off. I love this daylily and want to continue to raise it in my garden. Help, please!

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