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THE DAY LILY, BEAUTIFUL AND PROLIFIC

If you don't have what many gardeners call the "perfect perennial" in your garden, and if you do but want more of it, now is the time to plant day lilies.

Right off, let's set the record straight.

Day lilies and lilies are not one and the same.

The day lily grows from tuberous roots, like those Rachel Martin and Peter Weixlmann are showing off in the accompanying photo. The lily grows from a bulb.

If you would like to see a garden full of glorious day lilies -- a place you will not forget -- leave a note to yourself to visit Weixlmann's garden in West Seneca next July.

Weixlmann, who got into day lilies about eight years ago, has a "display garden."

"It's a designation given by the Daylily Society to gardens that grow a representative collection of modern day lilies," Weixlmann explained, "and the owner is willing to open the gardens to the public."

"It's a great opportunity for a new gardener to see just how beautiful day lilies are," said Ms. Martin, who is the vice president of the Buffalo Area Daylily Society. She can make arrangements for visits to Weixlmann's and other display gardens.

"Day lilies are just perfect for the beginning gardener," Ms. Martin said. "I will never forget the first day lily show I went to. When I saw all the gorgeous colors, I just flipped and said, 'This is for me.' "

There were more accolades for this hardy perennial that tolerates all kinds of soil as well as long dry spells.

"You just stick the roots in the ground and they grow," Ms. Martin continued. "Within a couple of years, you have a mass of roots and of course, flowers, from that first root.

"You don't even have to deadhead unless you are meticulous about your garden. After the flower dries up, it just drops off by itself.

"Plus, when they really take hold in your garden," Ms. Martin said, "they will grow thick enough to choke out all the weeds."

On top of all these great advantages, your choices of day lilies are endless.

There are more than 40,000 named cultivars listed with the American Hemerocallis Society and more than 13,000 varieties are for sale somewhere.

They can cost from $5 to $500 and if you get to next year's Day Lily Sale and Auction of the Buffalo Society, you can even pick them up for as little as $2.

And best of all, they will bloom through much of the summer!

"Day lilies are in the genus Hemerocallis," Ms. Martin explained, "which is derived from two Greek words meaning 'beauty' and 'day,' referring to the fact that each flower lasts only one day. To make up for this, there are many flower buds on each day-lily stalk and many stalks in each clump of plants, so the flowering period of a clump is usually several weeks long. And many varieties have more than one flowering period."

A perfect example of her last remark is the "Stella de Oro" that has become really popular over the past few years.

It's lemon yellow flowers began in June and continued into July when Stella decided to take some time off until early August when it began reblooming.

If your plants are mature, Stella may bloom until frost.

Ms. Martin did mention the "gorgeous colors," and are they ever. These open-throated trumpets come in colors ranging from near whites, pastels, yellows, oranges, pinks, vivid reds, crimson, purple, nearly true blue and fabulous blends.

Day lilies will put up with being divided at any time but if they had a choice, it would be autumn.

It's easy: Unearth the clump and then whack through it with a sharp shovel splitting it into pieces of thick, matted roots and plant.

If you want to learn more or just talk about your day lilies, it's easy to join the Buffalo Society. It costs $10 the first year and then annual dues of $5.

Contact Ms. Martin at her 248 Bedford Ave. home and she will sign you up.

Seed catalog addresses

The only excuse "Dirt" can offer is that Beatrice Elye's gardens -- described in the Aug. 14 column -- were so overwhelming, that the addresses of two of her favorite seed sources got garbled in the column.

The correct addresses are: Chiltern Seeds, Bortree stile, Ulverston, Cumbria, LA12 7 PB, England. Enclose $5 for a catalog.

J.L. Hudson Seedsman, Star Route 2, Box 337, LaHonda, Calif., 94020. Catalog, $1.

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