Missouri's Daylily Season

Tiny grasshopper visits one of my orange daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Tiny grasshopper visits one of my orange daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Missouri’s Daylily Season

It’s still amazing to me when I think about our European ancestors. They packed up only a few belongings to travel the Atlantic to make a new home in North America, carrying with them dandelions and Hemerocallis fulva, what we today call Missouri’s Orange daylilies. Actually some in Missouri call these “ditch lilies” because that’s where they can sometimes be found but in general, they are often considered a nuisance or a “weed.”

Not to our European ancestors. They depended on these daylilies for food and on the dandelions for medicine.

As someone who “discovered” these lovely perennials many decades ago, I find them handy in my Missouri hillside garden for a number of reasons.

First, since I garden on an acre where my neighbors told me “nothing would grow,” I use Missouri’s orange daylilies to help me hold in soil. Missouri’s orange daylilies will grow in almost any condition and soil including gravel and clay. They also nicely will help hold in soil, not so easy when one is gardening on land that has an incline.

One of my limestone hillsides covered in Missouri’s orange daylilies.(Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of my limestone hillsides covered in Missouri’s orange daylilies.(Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

In addition to holding in soil, I use Missouri’s orange daylilies to help mark paths since once the blooming period is over, the greenery helps to cover plants that may die back behind them.

Missouri Orange Daylilies on the way to one of my apiaries. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Missouri Orange Daylilies on the way to one of my apiaries. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Missouri’s orange daylilies are quite versatile, they will grow well in both sun and dapled shade, like this flower bed with my “cats” in the garden.

My garden “cats” sitting in the middle of Missouri orange daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

My garden “cats” sitting in the middle of Missouri orange daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Last but not least, Missouri’s orange daylilies are entirely edible. These Missouri native wildflowers are still grown in European kitchen gardens precisely because the plants are edible. The newly-growin stalks are called “poor man’s asparagus” and the flower buds are delicious in salads.

Since I don’t use chemicals in my Missouri hillside garden, I can pick orange daylilies with confidence but I would not try that on a batch of orange daylilies from the side of a road - or a ditch.

Orange daylilies line one of my paths down the hill. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Orange daylilies line one of my paths down the hill. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Missouri’s orange daylilies may not be the best cut flowers because the flowers only last a day. If you pick some with buds, the buds will open on the second and third days so you can mix them with other fill in flowers for a bouquet.

I frankly enjoy a cut bouquet of just orange daylilies. I pick off the dead flowers every day and watch the buds unfold.

If you look closely, these often overlooked Missouri wildflowers are actually quite lovely.

A close up of Missouri’s orange daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

A close up of Missouri’s orange daylilies. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Add a few to your garden and see for yourself!

Charlotte

Darling Daylilies

Originally from China, Missouri's ditch lilies are the basis for all hybrid daylilies on the market today. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Originally from China, Missouri's ditch lilies are the basis for all hybrid daylilies on the market today. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Darling Daylilies

We don’t appreciate them as much as European settlers, who among their few possessions made room for Hemerocallis fulva, today’s common orange daylily, when they first arrived in North America. How did we forget how valuable these plants used to be?

When I worked for several weeks in Southampton for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, several of our English counterparts talked about their tiny gardens. One of the staple plants they continue to grow in their kitchen gardens is daylilies because all parts of the plant are edible.

I didn’t know that when I first admired the beautiful orange blooms. I did know they were almost impossible to kill and grow in almost all conditions. When my husband at the time and I had a house built, I used them to hold soil. Some areas today still have the descendants of those first plants, so thick now I need to thin them out if I am going to see flowers in that part of the garden again.

I have since learned why daylilies are so darling, they are delicious. Jan Phillips in her book "Wild Edibles of Missouri" calls orange daylilies "another one of mother nature's grocery stores." Phillips confirms the whole plant is edible, from the young flower stalks in spring that taste like asparagus to the tiny, white root bulbs reminiscent of radishes.

The steamed stalks are referred to as the poor man’s asparagus, something I once again forgot to try this year when the stems were young enough.

Don Kurz in his field guide to “Ozark Wildflowers” said these plants have been “eaten in salads, in fritters, as a cooked vegetable and as a seasoning. In China, a root tea is used as a diuretic.”

There is also a cautionary note. “Recent Chinese reports warn that the roots and young leaf shoots are considered potentially toxic and can accumulate in the body and adversely impact the eyes, even causing blindness in some cases. Their studies also warn that the roots contain a carcinogen.”

Daylily buds, left, and the open flowers are delicious additions to salads. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Daylily buds, left, and the open flowers are delicious additions to salads. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I like the fresh flower buds. They are a nice addition to a salad or served on their own as a side dish. They taste like green beans with a hint of onion and brighten up any dish when you add an open flower.

Another way to enjoy the buds is to steam them. It only takes a couple of minutes to make the buds wilt so keep a close eye on them so they are not overcooked.

One of the more popular recipes is to fry the buds. If you want to try, use a flour dip in an egg wash in hot oil for only a minute or so, they cook quickly.

If you are going to eat daylilies, make sure you are picking them from a chemical-free area. Wash in cool water, then allow to dry. I keep them on their stems in a flower vase with water until I use them.

You don’t have to eat them to enjoy them, they are beautiful just as they are. I like them on this handmade wildflowers quilt, too!

Charlotte

 

Missouri Dayflowers

One of Missouri's true blue wildflowers, dayflower.

One of Missouri's true blue wildflowers, dayflower.

Missouri's Dayflower

It's almost unavailable any more, true blue garden flowers. So it's with a little consternation that I watch a friend mow down a lovely patch of one of Missouri's true blue wildflowers, the dayflower commelina communis. As you can guess from the plant's name, the one-inch blue flowers last only a day. 

A cousin of the fleshy-stemmed spiderwort, dayflowers grow on more narrow fleshy stems with oval leaves, preferring shade to full sun.

Another lovely Missouri wildflower and cousin to Missouri dayflowers, spiderwort.

Another lovely Missouri wildflower and cousin to Missouri dayflowers, spiderwort.

When I see the two pictures close together, it's easier to see the family connection.

One of the advantages of having dayflowers around is that you can use them in bald spots. Once they establish themselves, they can form a nice edge.

If you don't like where they settle, not a problem. The roots are on the surface, making the plants easily to pull up and move.

Dayflowers fill in a corner at Bluebird Gardens.

Dayflowers fill in a corner at Bluebird Gardens.

Dayflowers will fill in an empty garden spot quickly, bringing both green depth and a taste of blue wherever they grow. Leave them if they aren't disturbing anything; it's an empty garden spot because nothing else will grow there. 

They remind me of little blue bees with yellow eyes but then I tend to see bees in everything  around me.

Charlotte