Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Visting Fern Cove Daylily Farm

I have seen photos of Fern Cove Daylily Farm before but have never visited. I wasn't prepared for how lovely a field of these hardy perennials could be until I arrived. When I did it was a real treat and though I have some daylilies in my home landscape, I didn't know how to care for them.

But it didn't start with my visit. Mary Ann and J. G. Denney were speakers at our Crossroads Garden Club meeting on May 23. Mary Ann spoke first and gave us details about their farm, located on Jim Starr Road in Coweta County.

She told us that they had been operating this farm for almost twenty years, since her husband had retired from a power company in Florida. Originally from this area, they then moved back to Coweta and began a second career when they opened their farm.

Denney's love for gardening and especially for raising daylilies was apparent as he talked about growing daylilies, telling us that his love for gardening and especially daylilies had been passed down from his grandmother and mother.

He explained that daylilies are one of the most easily grown perennials and will reward you with beautiful blooms that multiply if you fertilize and prune them. After a season, or two, if given proper care, you may divide the plants to expand their growing area and they will continue to grow and flower. An added benefit is that the tuberous roots of the daylily will help keep sloped areas from washing away and will add substance to troubled areas of your lawn and garden.

Each flower only lasts for one day, but daylilies almost always have multiple flowers on each stem or "scape." After this many varieties, called repeaters put out more "scapes" with multiple blooms.

He told us that daylilies are either tetraploids, meaning the scapes are sturdy and won't easily bend, or diploids, with less sturdy scapes that blow in the wind. Each type has advantages and most people have favorites in the thousands of varieties grown by developers, or hybridizers each year.

After the Denneys talked to us at our meeting they invited us to visit their farm. Last Saturday morning a group of our Crossroads Garden Club members decided to go there and see exactly what they were talking about. As we arrived, we were treated to an array of color everywhere. We saw they had a vegetable garden close by that the Denney's son tends and a large patch of beautiful corn that is being grown by his 16-year-old grandson. 

Denney began his tour and lovingly told us about his daylily varieties and answered all of our questions.

 Denney's favorite daylily variety is Dublin Elaine. It is a beautiful pink double and ruffled variety that grows 32 inches tall with evergreen foliage.

The ruffles around the edges are bred into some varieties. Each hybridizer knows how to get the desired characteristics and must keep careful records in order to name a new variety. Denney has gone through that process years ago and has a named variety but decided it was too hard to be both a grower and a hybridizer, so he chose to be a grower.

The smaller stems on this pretty pink variety with a yellow halo in the center makes it a diploid variety.

If you click on the photo above, you will see that this Camden Gold Dollar variety is labeled. Each variety is carefully labeled to make sure the right variety is prepared when someone places an order.

Denney also recommends planting tall plants in the center and surround them with shorter varieties. These Camden Gold Dollar daylilies make a great companion to the daylily most used in landscapes around our area, the Stella de Oro. The flowers are very much the same but the Stellas are short and the Camden Golds are tall. It is striking when both used in a bed.

Above these plants you can see there is an electric fence that surrounds the farm so that deer will stay away. Denney says that deer consider daylilies to be candy.

Above is a beautiful variety that wasn't labeled correctly at one point and though it is a beautiful and hardy plant, it isn't as valuable as it would have been had it been handled correctly.

Again, the wire at the bottom right of the photo is an electric fence used to keep deer away.

Denney recommends that you only fertilize daylilies in the spring. He uses bone meal and Miracle Gro. Recommendations for planting new plants are to dig a hole big enough for the plants, around 18 inches deep. Denney recommends planting in triangles for a more filled in look with three plants per triangle. They will grow and fill the area between them and will be very lush all year long, since many are evergreens.

He recommends amending the soil (in the spring only) with a handful of bone meal or slow release Osmicote and a generous application of Miracle Gro. Another recommendation is to use a mixture of sand, compost, dirt and water crystals underneath each new plant. The water crystals really help if there is a drought and the compost is something to always use liberally.

After each scape has finished flowering, it is helpful to prune it back. Denney also says that pruning daylilies is very good for them. He recommends pruning plants to about six to eight inches above the ground. Denney says, "They love it!"

Never fertilize in the fall because the plants will develop new growth and might then freeze which could cause the plant to die. Always fertilize in the spring.

Denney showed us how to pluck the blooms off the plant and discards all blooms underneath the plant to provide extra mulch. His advice was to do this daily, if possible. It is hard to do when you have so many daylilies as he does at Fern Cove.

Denney's recommendation for replanting the extra daylily growth was to divide them every two years if they have produced extra plants from the roots. He suggests discarding any seeds that develops because they will not necessarily be a true form of the original plant since these plants are hybrids. You won't know what you will get if they multiply through seeds.

 It was a hands-on experience for all of us. The flowers are so beautiful and come in such a large variety that it is very hard not to touch them. We knew that the flower was only at its best for the day and this made us feel more free to touch.

Denney also gave us a tour of the other side of his garden where he has planted rare trees, shrubs and grasses along with more daylilies. This gate was used as an entrance to his garden at his previous home before he retired and moved to Coweta. It now welcomes you into his garden via the garden path.

A variegated Japanese Maple, stripped grasses and a male ginkgo tree are among the many attractions along the pathways at Fern Cove. The Denneys have been on the Master Gardener's tour for several years. Though Denney is not a Master Gardener, his garden is a real treat for visitors because of the variety. He is also full of useful information and it was a treat to hear him talk about all his plants.

Denney explained that he will be moving the daylilies from this side of the garden to the more commercial area in the fall.

The Denneys are thinking about their second retirement at this point and will be downsizing the farm. The upkeep is hard for them to continue. We all really appreciated the tour and thought even the areas they consider not kept up was wildly beautiful and well worth the tour.

Some of us purchased his daylilies and I know I will never look at a daylily display again without thinking of the Denneys and their love for this beautiful plant. They are really an inspiration.

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