Some years ago, Lynn Kramer, an Arboretum supporter, arranged to obtain specimens of all the daylilies that had won the prestigious Stout Award up to that point. The plants came from the extensive collection at the Kansas State University Gardens in Lawrence, Kansas. In 2011, that collection was updated to replace plants that had not survived and to obtain the newer varieties that were not a part of the original grouping. Since that time new Stout winners have been added as they receive the award and become available.
The genus name for daylilies, Hemerocallis, comes from the Greek words “hemera,” meaning day, and “kallos,” meaning beauty. They are not true lilies, hence the preferred use of the single word, “daylily.” Originally from Asia, early varieties were limited in color to yellows and oranges. Now, after years of hybridizing, primarily in the US and England, they are available in a wide spectrum of colors and in many shapes and sizes. Some 8,000 cultivars have been named.
For home gardeners, daylilies might be thought of as the perfect perennial. In addition to the nearly endless selection of colors, shapes and sizes, they thrive with little care in a wide variety of climates, soil and light conditions; can tolerate drought; can be used in all types of landscapes; and have few problems with pests and diseases.
The American Hemerocallis Society (AHS) represents the interests of growers of daylilies. In 1950, AHS established a series of awards to recognize outstanding varieties of daylilies. To understand the prestige of a Stout Award, it is useful to know about the “ladder” of awards associated with the Stout. The first “rung” of these awards is the Junior Citation Award. This award is given to new cultivars that have outstanding, distinctive qualities. At this level, performance in varying climates and conditions is not judged.
On the next step is the Honorable Mention Award. To be considered, cultivars must have been registered for at least three calendar years or have been selected by the awards committee as a cultivar that has been previously overlooked. Cultivars must have proven themselves in at least four AHS geographical regions.
The third level is the Award of Merit. Calculations for the award are complicated, but in essence, the cultivar must have received the Honorable Mention Award at least three years previously. Candidates must be distinctive and beautiful, and they must also have received at least one vote from judges in at least half of the AHS areas.
Finally we get to the highest honor that can be bestowed on a daylily – the Stout Award. It is named after Dr. Arlow Burdette Stout, who is thought of as the father of daylily breeding in North America. Only cultivars that received the Award of Merit no less than two years previously are eligible for this award. As you see, Stout Award winners are not new varieties. They are cultivars that have been recognized as outstanding for a number of years all over the country.
The daylily bed at our arboretum begins with “Hesperus,” the winner of the first Stout Award in 1950. From there, we have all the winners through 2015! Although most have already flowered this year, a few varieties are in bloom now for you to enjoy. Up until 2013, the daylilies were displayed near the shade garden. In the fall of that year, Arboretum staff and volunteers moved the collection to its more prominent position along the walkway to Shade Garden.
What a treasure! Not only can you see the daylilies that have, over the years, been named the best of the best, but you can see a good representation of the many forms and colors daylilies come in. The display might even help you decide what kind of daylily to plant in your own garden. At the very least, you can come out and enjoy their individual beauty, and be proud that your arboretum has such a prestigious collection.
Written By Rita Lynn
“Daylilies – Frequently Asked Questions,” www.daylilies.org/AHSFAQsNew.html and other information at the AHS website.