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Conservation Feature January 2022

My Hemerocallis Story 

Hemerocallis ‘Apple Court Damson’

Hemerocallis ‘Apple Court Damson’

I have always felt fairly neutral about Hemerocallis. It’s not that I don’t like them, but they were never one of those plants that reached out and grabbed me and said “Take me home!” 

Years ago though I acquired one by default. I think it was a left-over from a plant sale. Out of flower, no one was tempted to buy it. I planted it on my allotment and when it flowered I was pleasantly surprised by how pretty it was. Year after year it comes back and blooms for me, despite total neglect and often stiff competition from aggressive grasses and weedy thugs. When I had a chance to buy another Hemerocallis at one of our group’s spring meetings I thought I would try it. I planted Hemerocallis ‘Starling’ in my back garden at the top of the path where it made quite an impact. Now, I make meticulous records of all my plants, noting the date I bought or acquired them, name of the nursery, price and any information I find on an internet search. This one however, I failed to write down, only remembering that it was at an HPS meeting and probably in 2018. 

The third Hemerocallis in my collection came from the HPS Conservation Scheme. Again, I neglected to make the usual notes (why?), but I think it was one that nobody else wanted to take, so I decided to have a go. As it happened, there was space in my back garden just the opposite side of the path from Hemerocallis ‘Starling’, so Hemerocallis ‘Apple Court Damson’ was planted there. 

Hemerocallis ‘Starling’ was first into bud and then flower, but only by about a week or so. As the buds on Hemerocallis ‘Apple Court Damson’ began to form they looked remarkably similar to Hemerocallis ‘Starling’ buds. I watched expectantly each day, noticing how the colour deepened and changed from green to pink to finally dark purple-red. When the flowers on Hemerocallis ‘Apple Court Damson’ opened they looked exactly like those of Hemerocallis ‘Starling’! Was this possible? Surely you can’t have two names for what looked to be identical plants, so I started doing a bit of internet research.

What I found is that both cultivars are registered by the American Hemerocallis Society, ‘Starling’ in 1979 and ‘Apple Court Damson’ in 2014. A comparison of the data on The National Gardening Association Plants Database https://garden.org/ showed that Hemerocallis ‘Starling’ should be 28 inches (71cm) high and bloom early-midseason, while Hemerocallis ‘Apple Court Damson’ should be 38 inches (96.5cm) high and bloom midseason-late. In my garden they were both exactly 33 inches (84cm) high and bloomed at almost the same time. Perhaps this is because they were growing in almost the same conditions.


Hemerocallis ‘Apple Court Damson’

Hemerocallis ‘Starling’

I began to worry that our Conservation Scheme plant might be wrongly named. Reviewing scheme records however revealed that Hemerocallis ‘Apple Court Damson’ had come from seed obtained by Dianna Grenfell from an American friend. One of the seed parents is Hemerocallis ‘Joan Senior’ but the other is unknown. Dianna owned Apple Court Garden and Nursery. She also registered two other seedlings from these seeds. One was an ivory flowered plant called Hemerocallis ‘Apple Court Champagne’, the other a red flowered plant called Hemerocallis ‘Apple Court Ruby’. 

One other interesting thing I found with my research is that there are a lot of these very dark Hemerocallis out there. There are subtle differences between them, but also a lot of similarities. My conclusion is that we do indeed have a unique cultivar with Hemerocallis ‘Apple Court Damson’. It is just amazing that both Hemerocallis ‘Apple Court Damson’ and Hemerocallis ‘Starling’ are so similar, and that they both turned up side by side in my garden! Certainly both are beautiful and well worth growing. I think I’m beginning to warm to Hemerocallis

Sally Adams Posted by Sally Adams

Sally joined the Hardy Plant Society in the autumn of 2001, but only as a national member at first. She eventually joined the Essex group and was quickly co-opted onto the committee as Group Secretary. About the same time she also took on the job of Database Administrator for the Conservation Scheme. She worked with various co-ordinators on the scheme for several years, but by 2013 she needed to step down. She has now passed on the office of Group Secretary, but continues to be actively involved in the Essex group.

3 Comments To "Conservation Feature January 2022"

Robin Pool On 22.02.2022
It's true there are a lot of daylilies registered with very similar characteristics. The American Day lily Society responsible for registrations is more diligent than years ago about recording details, but their data store is only as good as those reporting into it. In fact if identical flowers but different other properties such as scape height and bud count exist, which they do, you can see how your situation can arise. After all breeding is taking place inside a finite gene pool. Reply to this comment
Sally Adams On 23.02.2022
Thanks for your comments Robin. I found it fascinating to research these two Hemerocallis. The records from 2014 were indeed more detailed than those from 1979, and maintaining the gene pool is one of the aims of the HPS Conservation Scheme.
Jan Vaughan On 08.01.2022
What a fascinating story and so pleased it has a happy ending with the conclusion that H. ‘Apple Court Damson’ is correctly named and different from other cultivars. It is one of my favourites since, like you, I came to appreciate hemerocallis through growing plants on the Conservation Scheme. And a reminder not to abandon that small plant left at the end of an HPS plant sale! Reply to this comment
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