Hybridizing Daylilies In The Zahler-Therrien Garden
Walking through her family gardens last month, Heidi Douglas mused about a flower for which more than 82,200 varieties worldwide fill a registry.
By the time Mother’s Day rolls around every May, daylilies are starting to blossom across Horry and Georgetown counties with stalks, or scapes, that refresh with blooms into summer. Scanning the flower display beds spaced across the 4 acres at Browns Ferry Gardens, northwest of Georgetown, Douglas broke down the roots of the scientific word hemerocallis, from two Greek words, translating their duration in bloom to “beauty in a day.”
The president of the Georgetown Area Daylily Club, Douglas – married to Charles Douglas, also is vice president of the American Hemerocallis Society and director of its Region 15, with 13 clubs across North and South Carolina – said daylilies remain a “hardy” perennial from Florida into Canada.
As her husband talked in depth with two daylily hybridizers, or breeders, visiting from the Florence area, Douglas said going from “daylily seed to bloom” takes “a two-year process.” This “labor of love” of a hobby-turned-into-livelihood more than two decades ago remains a “ton of fun,” she said.
Douglas said the growth and development in each daylily planting resembles a beauty pageant in ways because ultimately, the flowers turn into “pretty faces” atop “nice legs.”
Their patches are organized by group, too, with first-year seedlings in their own spot, before their shift to another bed to mature.
Yellow stands out among daylilies, just as pink, red, purple, green and orange might, with a plethora of color patterns, and shapes such as single, double and spider, Douglas said.
Hybridizers go to town not only in selling their own formally American Hemerocallis Society registered, or “introduced,” types, but in naming them. For 2016, among their various respective introductions, Heidi Douglas took a bow to the Beatles with “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” Charles Douglas got colorful with “It’s In Her Kiss,” and their fellow hybridizer, Gene Tanner, who hopped in the saddle with a “Carolina Horse Trader.”
Douglas said growing and hybridizing daylilies comes quite easily, with low, basic maintenance on the former, and that “all male and female parts” visible to see for the latter.
She called the membership in the American Hemerocallis Society, which numbers more than 6,000 from about two dozen countries, “a family.”
“It’s a whole world,” Douglas said. “That’s it. You’re stuck.”
On about two-thirds of an acre on Cultra Road in Conway, Duane Therrien and Ed Zahler operate Therrien/Zahler Garden, with a big dedication to daylilies, and rolling out their welcome to anyone interested in them.
Zahler said his love for the flowers started at age 6 by growing them, and hybridizing them by his teen years. He said he found their cultivation as easy, and because “they put on a whale of a show, and for some reason, it was my flower.”
Hybridizing fulfills his goal to make daylilies only better, especially through the 1,000 seedlings he and Therrien grow every year to evaluate for possible introduction.
Zahler said of that annual total, they select 25 to 50 to consider for introduction, and introduce typically five from that batch, and that going from seed to introduction takes five years’ minimum.
Echoing Heidi Douglas about this past winter being more mild, Therrien said the growing season is “2-3 weeks ahead” this year.
Talking at the close of April, Zahler said that “in two weeks, we’ll have a thousand blooms a day.”
Asked what he desires in a daylily type, Zahler said, “You can look at daylilies, see them blend, and see what they should look like.”
“This is how you make your choices,” he said, voicing the allure of pinks, for instance.
Therrien, intrigued by purples, including sunfast kinds – which resist wilting in afternoon sunshine – spoke of using “an intuitive sense” in creating new varieties and patterns.
Sharing blooms and hybridizing success makes up “a large part of the joy in this daylily world,” Therrien said, loving the connections among daylily enthusiasts everywhere through networking reach in all directions, to enhance the culture “to do whatever you want in your individual garden.”
Both men, as well as the Douglases, look forward to helping coordinate the 2018 American Hemerocallis Society national convention at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, and showcasing local growers’ garden. Therrien said such a forum cultivates more tourism for the Grand Strand, because they hear all the time from vacationers planning trips and calling to arrange visits to their gardens.
Therrien said they have observed in their own travels and by meeting other hybridizers, that in light of a longtime trend of growers working with diploids – plants with 22 chromosomes – a resurgence has emerged of breeding solely in tetraploids, those with 44 chromosomes.
“You have to do a good diploid to have a good tetraploid,” Therrien said.
Zahler avers that tetraploids draw attention because such flowers are fancier, but through the years, he and Therrien “have created daylilies that look like tetraploids, but are actually diploids.”
“That’s where we got the name for our website,” Therrien said, “icantbelieveitsadip.com.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.
If you go
WHAT: 22nd annual Open House
WHEN: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. June 4-5
WHERE: Browns Ferry Gardens, 13515 Browns Ferry Road (S.C. 51), northwest of Georgetown and about 12 miles west from U.S. 701
▪ Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays May 21-June 25, and by appointment.
▪ “Daylilies 101” – www.brownsferrygardens.com/Information/daylilies%20101.html
▪ Georgetown Area Daylily Club – among 13 daylily clubs in the American Hemerocallis Society Region 15, covering North and South Carolina – with meetings on second Sunday monthly resuming in August. ahsregion15.org/Clubs/Georgetown/ and www.ahsregion15.org.
▪ 2018 American Daylily Society (www.daylilies.org) National Convention, coming that June at Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
▪ Check out Charlotte’s Daylily Diary at www.daylilydiary.com.
MORE INFORMATION: 843-546-6419, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other local, family daylily growers
▪ Therrien/Zahler Garden, 2107 Cultra Road, Conway, west from traffic light at Main Street (U.S. 701) and Country Club Drive – 843-995-7151, 843-855-3536, icantbelieveitsadip.com, or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ Loretta’s Daylily Farm, 4855 W. U.S. 501, west of Conway, just past S.C. 22, on west side of highway – 843-365-2291 or www.lorettasdaylilyfarm.com.
▪ Don Albers Daylilies, 11133 S.C. 707, Murrells Inlet. 843-650-7270.
▪ Roycroft Daylily Nursery, 942 Whitehall Ave., Georgetown, about 2.5 miles east from U.S. 17, about 5 miles south of downtown – 843-527-1533, roycroftdaylilies.com, or email email@example.com.