The Gardener's Guide to Growing Daylilies Grenfell, Diana, 1998. ISBN 0-88192-461-X (cloth US$29.95) 160 pp Timber Press, 133 S.W. Second Avenue, Suite 450, Portland, Oregon 97204-3527.
The Gardener's Guide to Growing Daylilies by Diana Grenfell arrives as the latest in the Gardener's Guide series from Timber Press, covering the many species and very many hybrids which come from the genus Hemerocallis. Several chapters and sections are written by other authors active in growing and breeding daylilies, and there is a forward by noted author Adrian Bloom.
The Gardener's Guide to Growing Daylilies opens with a treatment of the early history and botany of Hemerocallis, followed by numerous chapters on the various species, hybrids, and groups of daylilies, including a discussion of diploid versus tetraploid daylilies and consideration of special types such as the spider and unusual daylilies. This is followed by "A Selection of the Best Daylilies," and a treatment of the use of daylilies in the garden and of their breeding. The author then presents a chapter on noteworthy daylily collections, and invited chapters by other knowledgeable authors describe the state of daylilies in some countries outside the United Kingdom, from which Diana Grenfell comes. The fact that the author comes from the UK strongly colors the information presented in the text, and these chapters act to add balance to the book, expanding its audience and relevance to North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. The Gardener's Guide to Growing Daylilies closes with information on the cultivation of daylilies. Appendices concisely and completely define botanical terms, supply a bibliography, and list daylily societies along with places to view and purchase these popular garden plants.
This particular volume lives up to the reputation of this series of books in being informative, attractive, and useful. Diana Grenfell does a commendable job of explaining and defining daylilies, their parts and categories. She clearly and concisely defines the various terms which apply specifically today lilies, such as the difference between star and spider daylilies. However, there are several obvious weaknesses in this book. The author admits that the chapter on "A Selection of the Best Daylilies" is a personal selection, but the title seems inappropriate, since taste varies so widely. "My Favorite Daylilies" would have been afar more accurate and appropriate chapter title. This sort of personalism also creeps in with long lists of cultivar and breeder names, relevant for someone who is personally conversant with such details but not for a more general audience. For a turgid example, see p. 121: American breeders Bob Schwarz, Ken Durio, Dan Trimmer, Patrick Stamile, Mort Morss and others on both sides of the Atlantic are working with converted Spider Variants such as "Cat's Cradle", "Red Thrill", "Spider Miracle", "Fol De Rol", "Wildest Dreams", "Black Plush", "Garden Portrait", "Spindazzle", "Parfait", and "De Colores." A few sentences like this would have been appropriate, but in The Gardener's Guide to Daylilies they are very common. This excessive detail may make this book very useful for those who are seriously committed to Hemerocallis, but it may also make the book quickly seem dated. Beyond serious amateur and professional breeders, such detail will be of little interest.
The chapters and sections of chapters by authors other than Diana Grenfell do broaden the perspective of this volume, but they too suffer from excessive detail as noted above. The chapter on New Zealand is a notable exception. Also, some sentences make little sense either on their own or as part of this book, e.g. "There is something about the magic of daylilies that causes professional men and women to abandon successful careers in midstream and turn to breeding them for a living." (section by David Kirchhoff; p. 109) The photographs found in this volume are not the best to be found in the Gardener's Guide series, with many being dull colored, even accounting for the warm, flavonoid-dominated palate which predominates in Hemerocallis.
In short, The Gardener's Guide to Growing Daylilies, while interesting and useful, is one of the weaker volumes in that series. This series usually aims to be helpful for a wide range of readers, from professional horticulturists and botanists to home gardeners, and succeeds. This particular volume would be of use in a university library, professional library, or in the library of an amateur who is very interested in daylilies. Its appeal may be more limited for a broader audience due to excessive detail, which makes for heavy reading.
- Douglas Darnowski, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana IL 61801