Dazzling display: Almost 150 daylilies fill George Gannaway's garden

Dazzling display: Almost 150 daylilies fill George Gannaway's garden

July 20th, 2013 by Susan Pierce in Life Entertainment

Parade of Peacocks daylily.

Photo by Maura Friedman /Times Free Press.

George and Ginny Gannaway stand among daylillies in the backyard bed they built over several summer seasons. The couple recently completed courses for Master Gardener certification.

George and Ginny Gannaway stand among daylillies in...

Photo by Maura Friedman /Times Free Press.

Orange Vols daylily.

Orange Vols daylily.

Photo by Maura Friedman /Times Free Press.

Anastasia daylily.

Anastasia daylily.

Photo by Maura Friedman /Times Free Press.

George Gannaway's most valuable daylily is this Bridgeton Icon, for which he paid $125.

George Gannaway's most valuable daylily is this Bridgeton...

Photo by Maura Friedman /Times Free Press.

Tips for growing daylilies

George Gannaway offers this advice to anyone considering adding daylilies to their yard.

Daylilies love sun, full sun if possible. They need at least six hours of sun, although filtered sun through pine trees will generally work. Consider planting dark colors, such as reds, where they will receive some shade in the afternoon. They are prone to fade with too much sun.

Daylilies will grow in most any soil from sand to heavy clay, but it is advisable to improve heavy clay with soil conditioners such as peat moss. They don't do well if planted too close to other shrubs. Daylilies like about 1 inch of water a week.

When shopping, consider the height of the scape (stem), which varies from 12 to 40 inches. Before you buy a plant, consider its size of bloom, whether it reblooms the same year and blooms early, mid-season or late.

Plants ordered online will come dry, no soil and the top 6 inches of the plant will be cut off. The plant grouping may be planted as is, but it is usually preferred to separate plants and space them apart in a hole that gives ample room for root growth. Daylilies multiply, and the extra space promotes additional plants and larger blooms.

Once planted, keep moist until the plant is established. Fertilize with basic fertilizer, such as 10-10-10, in a few weeks, then again in fall and spring when plants begin to put out new leaves.

George Gannaway has owned five homes since he bought his first in 1965, and everywhere he has put down roots, so have his daylilies.

"My grandmother grew daylilies, then my mother," he says. "They are pretty hardy with respect to disease. They require no maintenance, and they will multiply on their own."

Daylilies are arguably the perfect perennial. These winter-hardy plants love full sun, have little-to-no problems with disease, grow in almost every type of soil, are hard to kill and are easy to divide and replant.

Their only downside: A daylily bloom only lasts one day, thus the name.

When Gannaway bought his current home in Red Bank almost five years ago, it had a good-sized backyard with no trees, ideal for growing daylilies. The first thing he did was build a retaining wall in what he and wife Ginny describe as "a jungle of blackberry vines" along the length of his property line with his neighbor.

For color, he planted 10 crepe myrtles along the wall and interspersed them with groupings of daylilies running the length of the property to a cluster of white hydrangea bushes.

For the finishing touch to his backyard retreat, Gannaway laid a stone patio, where the couple can entertain friends and enjoy the daylily display.

"This garden is one of the prettiest things I've seen," says Bob Oldham, a friend of the Gannaways. "And this was done by a nonprofessional gardener -- George is a talented engineer, daylilies are his hobby. He just made his backyard come alive. It's a great tribute to his talent and hard work."

Gannaway had 200 yards of dirt hauled in to build a 150-foot flower bed almost the width of his

backyard. The bed is planted in layers of height, beginning with begonias and other low-flowering choices in front. A variety of daisies and irises are interspersed with daylilies at mid-height, then backed by a privacy fence planted with 19 evergreen trees, cryptomeria and deodar cedars.

But daylilies are the stars of this backyard display. They span the color spectrum from white through all the citrus shades to sunset reds and purples. Seventy-four of the hybrids he can name.

"I have 149 daylily plants and 102 different plants," Gannaway says. "One of the daylilies has been with me at all five houses. It goes back to my grandmother. It's called Miss Jessie. She paid $10 for it back in the late 1950s" -- a princely sum for a flower at that time.

Gannaway adds that the majority of daylilies sell between $9.95 to $29.95, although some hybrids can top $100. He either buys from local nurseries, online or swaps with other members of the American Hemerocallis Society, of which he and Ginny are members.

Contact staff writer Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6284.