"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag

Daylily Mixer: Red, Purple, and Yellow Daylilies

From “Gardening” in So Late, So Soon by Linda K. Anderson:

“Ahhh, gardening. I adore digging in the dirt, especially in my North Carolina garden. I’m a good gardener, probably more from diligence and determination than a green thumb. Nature is so giving….

“With my hands in the dirt and the sun warming my back, I soak in the silence, or hum with the buzzing of a bee, and breathe the subtle scent of honeysuckle twining on the fence. Plucking, pulling, and weeding works muscles needing the activity. I make a cavity for a seed to take root while a Purple Finch lands softly five feet from me to scratch the earth, a bee sucks nectar from a red daylily, and a silky breeze kisses my cheek and stirs my hair….

“How rich I am with all this beauty. I feel at home with nature, in a peaceful small world of my own. Feeling at home and welcome.”

From “Purple Daylily” in Hidden Among the Petals by Beverly Hughes:

“In 1997, a fascinating event took place for me when I was in a greenhouse in Springfield, Delaware County in Pennsylvania. I thought that the only daylilies that existed were the wild orange ones that grew along the roadside during the summer. From my personal observation of growing certain purple and pink daylilies, they begin to start opening about 1:00 a.m. in the morning and maintain its beautiful color and texture until about 11:00 a.m. Then the flower tissue and color begins to breakdown, and by sundown, the bloom closes forever.”

From “Hemerocallis thunbergii Baker” in Hemerocallis, The Daylily by R. W. Munson, Jr.:

“A daylily was mentioned under the name Hemerocallis thunbergii by Peter Barr in 1873, as a plant that starts to flower somewhat later then H. fulva (the Europa Daylily), has flowers a clear, beautiful, yellow color, and is 3 ft. tall. This plant was first listed for sale in the catalog of Barr and Sugden in 1873….

“Plants of Thunberg’s Daylily, of the clone widely cultivated and believed to be that named by [John Gilbert] Baker, have a robust and compact habit of growth and are strongly spreading in the crown by short, erect branches. The roots are somewhat enlarged and fleshy. The foliage is medium dark green and ascending-spreading to a general level of about 30 in., and dies in late autumn, usually not until after frost. The scapes are numerous, slender, stiffly erect to a height of about 45 in., and are well-branched above. The flowers are lemon-yellow in color with the tube and the outside of the sepals strongly tinged green…. Flowering is in midsummer; in New York it blooms in July along with the Europa Daylily and after plants of
H. flava and H. minor have ceased to bloom….

Thunberg’s Daylily has an excellent robust habit, attractive dark green foliage, and an abundance of flowers…. Thunberg’s Daylily is rather widely known in American gardens.”


Here we wrap up daylily photography for 2024 (unless I find some late-bloomers) with three collections, of red, purple, and yellow daylilies.

I found the plants with large yellow flowers in more woodsy areas of Oakland Cemetery’s gardens — growing in the sunny outer edges of some plots of land filled with large trees or shrubs. That they bloomed so well in partly sunny areas suggested that I might be able to grow them in my own mostly-shade garden, so perhaps next spring I’ll look for some yellow companions for my Witch’s Hand Daylilies.

I came across the red and purple daylilies on my way out of the gardens one day, after having already spent a couple of hours in the hot sun on a photography excursion. Both batches were clearly in the late stages of their blooming season, but I held off my desire to get back into air-conditioning and got them to pose for photos. The purple ones probably had only a few more days of blooming left, but I thought it was interesting that — you can see this in the first three photos — the purple color fades to blue as the flower petals wither. While I might have normally skipped photographing flowers with half-dead petals, I liked the contrast between the purple and blue so kept a few of them in my collection.

Thanks for taking a look!

Photographing Pink Daylilies

From A Passion for Daylilies: The Flowers and the People by Sydney Eddison:

“In 1938, Elizabeth Nesmith, a pioneer breeder from Massachusetts, created an exciting new ‘pink’ daylily which she named ‘Sweetbriar‘. This early pink along with ‘Hyperion‘ weaves a soft rosy orange and pale yellow theme among the Aurelian hybrid lilies, sunflowers, and exclamation marks of lythrum at the back of my border….

“Over the years, these and other vigorous cultivars that once consisted of a modest fan of leaves and a single scape bearing only a few blossoms have developed into great clumps of graceful foliage surmounted by bushel basket loads of flowers. Most clumps have subsequently been divided innumerable times, with the result that I have more daylilies than I know what to do with. But no matter how crowded the perennial border becomes, I can never resist adding more. Nor do I discard the old ones. I could never bring myself to abandon ‘Norwegian Lass‘, which has large, open blossoms the color of clotted cream, or give up ‘Melody Lane‘, a vigorous yellow airbrushed with paprika — both products of the fifties….”

From “Photographing Daylilies” in The Illustrated Guide to Daylilies by Oliver Billingslea:

“[As] photographers we must have an eye for [color] and for rendering it accurately…. [It] is best to photograph most daylilies on a cloudy day. Nothing is more wonderful for photography than the soft light available during an early morning fog or mist. Although bright yellows, melons, and orange daylilies may benefit from some sunlight, as a general rule never shoot pinks, lavenders, or purples in direct sunlight, since its yellow wave length will tend to render these colors as salmons, pinkish lavenders, or muddy purples….

“With some digital cameras, the cool tones may be so strong that lavenders and purples will be overly enhanced, particularly in early morning light, and some further reduction of the blue in the purple may be necessary…. Shooting photos in mid-afternoon is always a problem, because the colors of the daylilies, particularly the darker ones, may have undergone a muddying effect that the camera will detect….

“When there’s bright sunlight and no clouds, people may seek to shade blooms with their bodies or to use some such object as an umbrella to provide requisite shade. Neither is generally successful. The shadow, even that from a white umbrella, tends to gray or dull the bloom…. Though some may want their prints to ‘pop off the page,’ be sure they don’t pop inaccurately.”


While I have quite a few books about botany, gardening, plants, and flowers (and access to many more), it’s uncommon to encounter photography advice in any of those books, even those focused on a single flower family like lilies or daylilies. The excerpt above from The Illustrated Guide to Daylilies is then a welcome exception, as the author diverges from his writing about all-other-things daylily to spend some time explaining how to accurately capture daylily colors and how to manage lighting when photographing these flowers.

As the author notes, and as I’ve often written about here before, cloudy days provide some of the best lighting for outdoor flower photography: harsh shadows produced by intense sunlight are reduced, and color is not over-saturated since less of it is reflected back into the camera’s sensor. But, of course, you can’t necessarily wait around for cloudy days (we had hardly any in June, so I wouldn’t have taken many pictures if I’d waited for clouds), so it’s good to experiment with different lighting conditions and see what you can do to optimize them. Finding ways to balance sunny-day lighting by composing for backlighting, side-lighting, or sun filtered through trees can work well — and that’s what I tried to do with these photos of pink daylilies from Oakland Cemetery’s gardens.

Here’s an example where the scene has a lot of backlighting. From the camera’s perspective, this was the “correct” exposure, as it attempted to balance lighting between the foreground and background. I use my camera in manual mode, but I think this is similar to what the camera would render if automatic exposure settings were used since there’s so much bright light behind the flower. I could have zoomed in and filled the frame with the flower and avoided this dull rendering, but I liked the sense of summer sun splashing around behind the flower and wanted to keep the scene composed that way.

Because Lightroom lets you select subjects and backgrounds and adjust their settings independently, it’s possible to do a lot more with this image than simply increase its exposure or brightness (which would apply to the whole scene, including the backlighting). Here’s what I see in Lightroom, where the first screenshot shows the subject selected (in fluorescent green), and the second shows the background selected.

With these selections completed, I can switch between the foreground and background, and work on all their exposure and color settings as if each part was an individual photo — with the goal, ultimately, of recreating the scene as I saw it (and not how the camera interpreted it), with a bright pink daylily in the foreground and soft swatches of green and yellow from the grass and shrubs in the background.

Here’s where we end out… can you feel the summer breeze?

Here are the two images side-by-side; select either image if you would like to view them full-screen for comparison.

Most of the photos in this post got a similar treatment; it’s my normal workflow at this point to adjust foreground and background elements separately to help me recreate what I saw. This capability also means that I can manage well with a wide variety of lighting conditions — so I don’t have to stay home and wait for clouds to come in!

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Red and Yellow Daylilies

From “Daylilies” in Gather Ye Wild Things: A Forager’s Year by Susan Tyler Hitchcock:

“The sun approaches its zenith. Hot rays coax daylilies abloom….

“[Blossoms] slowly explode for a single day of bliss, then fold forever. A summer day sees the daylily open, rejoice in the sunshine, share its pollen with the insects, sense the day’s end, and close. The same abundance of activity fills a daylily’s yearly cycle.

“Even in the deep of winter, a cluster of nubby tubers multiplies underground. Small nut-shaped root parts, each with plant potential, spread from the growing center. The wild daylily never reproduces by seed. But to see the abundance of summer blossoms, one knows that the tubers have been active year round. Bright sprigs of foliage appear early, some of the first green to sprout in fields and streamsides. By late spring flower stalks have shot straight up, three or four feet high. Tender buds emerge, often twelve to a stalk; they blossom one by one, one a day. Spent blooms wither and fade and finally fall away. Stalks recede; tubers take over for another winter of underground hibernation.”

From “Daylilies” in Coming to Treeline: Adirondack Poems by Pamela Cranston:

Clusters of daylilies
float like green islands
on the broad sea
of our scrubby front lawn —
like barges filled with flocks
of swaying golden swans.

Each morning, these tangles
of yellow trumpets lift
the shafts of their long throats
and blow their brassy horns….

Come evening, they twist
their mouths shut, tight
as a dancer’s pirouette,
and sink into silence….


Switching from my garden back to Oakland Cemetery’s botanical treasures once again, here is a series of photos of one of their most stunning daylily collections.

I first discovered these a couple of years ago — in a section of the cemetery where there are few flowering plants — and I first photographed them in 2022 (see Summer Daylilies (1 of 3): Burgundy and Yellow). I suppose I’m quibbling with myself in describing their color once as burgundy and now as red; but having two years more experience in flower photography, I think these renderings more accurately represent the actual colors of the flowers. Red and burgundy are of course close relatives; and many of the flower petals in this series could be described as shades of burgundy, even if red dominates according to my eyes.

I chose the two quotations above for this post because the book excerpt and the poem describe one of the daylily’s unique features, as they are known for producing flowers that last only one day. Their scientific name Hemerocallis comes from combining Greek words for “day” and “beauty” (sometimes more loosely cast as “beauty for a day”) — so even their name reflects the way they operate. I’m sure you’re wondering how and why they do what they do. I was too!

With the help of my imaginary assistant ClaudeAI and a book called Botany: Principles and Applications by Roy H. Saigo, I learned that daylilies are strategic. They’ve evolved a complex pollination strategy whereby they produce clusters of individual flower buds on each stalk, then — instead of opening them all at once — typically open one, two, or just a few a day for successive days, until they run out of flowers.

This one-day flowering can enable several weeks of pollination opportunities for your average daylily, and it’s a complex chemical and biological process covered by the botanical term senescence. Plant senescence generally refers the the aging process of whole plants (including longer term aging like autumn color changes), and flower senescence separately explains the aging process of flower blossoms. While the one-day flower senescence is not necessarily specific to just daylilies, daylilies may be the only one for which it’s a defining characteristic of the plant.

My own Witch’s Hand Daylilies — which consisted of two plants in a large pot — never opened more than two flowers on any day. Though The Photographer might have preferred a nice half-dozen bunch that looked like flowers in a vase, it was not up to him — though he did appreciate the fact that the blooming went on for about three weeks, as, presumably did many bug, bee, and butterfly pollinators. Daylilies like those I photographed at Oakland Cemetery’s gardens did the same thing: these photos are from two separate trips, about a week apart, and in any of them you can see that the plant will have many more days of blooming and pollination offerings, given how many unopened buds there were when I snapped the pictures.

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Witch’s Hand Daylily

From “Flower Forms” in The Illustrated Guide to Daylilies by Oliver Billingslea:

“Modern daylilies exhibit a wide array of forms. The circular flower form appears round. Segments generally overlap, giving a full appearance. In the triangular form, sepals typically recurve to make three flat sides while long petals extend into modified points. In the star form, petals and sepals tend to be long and pointed, separated by spaces. Segments radiate to six points. Many older daylilies, those produced before the era of wide petals, fall into this category. Some flowers may be referred to as being flat, that is, completely open and spread out except for the concave throat; others may be referred to as recurved, that is, having segments which flare, the ends of which are rolled or tucked under. The trumpet form has segments which rise from the throat in an upward pattern with little flare. These are sometimes referred to as representative of a chalice or cup form. Many of the species are trumpet forms….

“A fifth form is that of the spider, the petals of which have a length to width ratio of at least 4:1, as measured with segments fully extended.”

From The Learned Arts of Witches and Wizards by Anton Adams:

“It was not until the 1640s that the American colonies experienced any hysteria concerning witchcraft, possibly influenced by the English situation at the same time. The first witch was hanged in Connecticut in 1647 and there were scattered accounts of witches tried in other colonies. However, the most important witch trial was that of the Salem ‘witches’ in Massachusetts from 1692 to 1693. Unrest in Massachusetts after the loss of its colonial charter in 1684, compounded by a number of social problems and repressions, led to a society ripe for accusations of witchcraft.

“Over 200 people were arrested and accused of witchcraft. Nineteen were actually hanged, all on the testimony of a group of eight girls, ranging in age from 12 to 20, who claimed to see spectral emanations from those they accused of witchcraft. The girls, including Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam, were alleged to fall into frenzied convulsions if a ‘witch’ came anywhere near them….

“Their convulsions would stop upon the touch of the witch’s hand….”


Around the middle of May, I went hunting at a local garden center for some new flowers for my garden, to replace a few potted annuals from the previous year with perennials. That garden center had quite a few daylily varieties, any of which would have been nice additions, and (as one does) I spent a lot of time trying to decide which kind to buy. I had no specific criteria in mind, so I defaulted to the method I use to buy wine (which I know little about): I pick out something with a cool name — in this case a Witch’s Hand Daylily, or, officially, Hemerocallis x ‘Witch’s Hand.’

Plants like daylilies that require a lot of sun sometimes don’t work well in my courtyard, because it’s surrounded by towering pines and there’s a large Japanese Maple that shades about a third of it. But I don’t mind experimenting a little, having found that many flowering plants will do just fine with scattered sunlight and spans of full sun a few times a day. Unsurprisingly, my Witch’s Hand didn’t do much for a couple of weeks, then (I swear this is true!) overnight one night it produced a series of stems (or scapes and bracts) with a few tiny flower buds along their lengths. Within a few days, those stems grew three feet, showing off shapely forms that were quite compelling on their own. Some examples are featured in the first nine photos below, followed by the first bloom that appeared (in the next three photos) at just about the same time a Stargazer Lily opened up in another large pot nearby.

The rest of the photos show off the Witch’s Hand in full bloom, as it produced at least two new flowers every day until late June. As described in the first quotation above, the flower is a daylily spider form (how appropriate!) — with colors exhibiting dark red and burgundy variations, often with threads of purple or blue through their centers or along each petal’s edge. The only thing that would make it better is if it bloomed on Halloween!

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

White and Purple Irises

From “Dalmatica and English Nurserymen” in Classic Irises and the Men and Women Who Created Them by Clarence Mahan:

[Peter] Barr and his sons Peter Rudolph and William were leading breeders of irises. Beginning with the introduction of a reddish-violet iris named Garibaldi in 1873, the Barrs produced scores of new irises. These Barr irises were highly regarded in their day. Mention has already been made of the Pallida Dalmatica look-alike Princess Beatrice. A few of the other popular Barr varieties were brownish-yellow Bronze Beauty, light blue-violet Alice Barr, blue-violet Khedive, and yellow and red-violet ‘Robert Burns’….

“One of Peter Barr’s lasting contributions to the world of garden irises was the gift of a special vocabulary. Garden writer and iris hybridizer Sydney B. Mitchell explained how this came about in his book
Iris for Every Garden:

“‘About 1873 Barr issued a descriptive list of his extensive collection [of irises], arranging the varieties in groups: aphylla (including forms of germanica), amoena (white standards and purple falls), neglecta (lavender standards and dark falls), pallida (lavender, light and dark blue, and rosy-toned purple selfs), squalens (forms with blended, often rather dull, combinations of smoky blue and gray or yellow and red), and variegata (clear yellow standards and falls either veined a dark red or nearly solid ox-blood color). Barr’s classification was adopted and continued in English and American lists into the nineteen-twenties. Even to this day such terms as ‘amoena’ and ‘variegata’ are applied to modern hybrids of these old color patterns.’

“The terms ‘amoena,’ ‘neglecta,’ and ‘variegata’ continue to be used by those who write and talk about irises in the 21st century. These words refer to the color patterns described by Barr and form an enduring element of iris argot. It is, after all, easier to say than an iris cultivar is a ‘neglecta’ than to say that it is a ‘violet or purple iris with standards that are lighter in color than its falls.”


This is the last of my iris posts for 2024 — unless I come across some of the very late bloomers, like the Leopard Lily (Iris domestica), which I can often find in July. The galleries below show those I photographed with white or nearly white standards and contrasting shades of purple in their falls. Toward the middle, you will also see some that have a thin white border around the edges of the purple petals, providing an extra touch of pizazz.

Separate from any scientific or botanical names, descriptions of iris color schemes have their own names — such as amoena and neglecta — which are explained in the quotation at the top of the post. The term “amoena” refers to an iris with white standards and colored (in this case, purple) falls, and “neglecta” is more ambiguously used to describe an iris where the standards and falls show distinct variations (light and dark, typically) of the same color, such as blue, purple, or violet. If you would like to read about some of the other terms used to describe iris colors, see (with pictures!) Iris Flower Patterns from the National Gardening Association.

While I’d heard some of these terms before, I don’t think I realized that they were an important part of understanding iris colors and talking or writing about them. Perhaps they fill the gap I’ve run into frequently, that it’s quite difficult to identify individual iris variants when you come across them in a garden or from photographs (unless you bought them at a garden center and kept their “my name is” tag). Assuming I photograph them again next year (and hunt down some new ones), I think I may try to separate them by these “official” color categories, just for the sake of learning how to apply them to my discoveries.

Thanks for taking a look!