Hemerocallis ‘Primal Scream’

Where would we be without our friends? They offer drive-by advice, they bring plants, they fuel addictions. If I suddenly crave hemerocallis where formerly I was lukewarm, the blame can be solidly pinned on Richard Daniel and Sydney Eddison.

Before Richard and Sydney worked their conspiracy, daylilies were just okay with me. In reality, the right daylilies hadn’t crossed my path. And the fact that I encountered mostly ‘Stella de Oro’ when I was in my “hate yellow” stage did nothing to fan the fires of affection. Plus, I was exposed to some strongly worded negative publicity. Along with double hollyhocks, Tasha Tudor ranted at length against daylilies. That fact alone should have forewarned me that daylilies and I would eventually waltz. And just between you and me — I’ve been flirting with double hollyhocks from a distance as well.

Tasha never wasted a diatribe on anything trivial. And she didn’t tongue-lash the subject of daylilies during a mere one or two harangues. She made her dislike crystal clear on multiple occasions. In fact, mention the word “hemerocallis” in Tasha’s earshot and you might as well forget any hope of tea and scones for the next hour or more.

Why did Tasha chose daylilies for a vendetta? I think it had to do with foliage, really. Or too much foliage. Or the ratio of foliage to flowers. Or the grass-like quality of daylily leaves. Or all of the above. And those same traits might account for why I am now a believer. I rather like plants that balance their blossoms against ample green. Anyway, I feel fairly certain that ‘Primal Scream’ never crossed Tasha’s path. So perhaps she can be forgiven for her prejudice.

It’s not always that I vote with the majority. But it would seem that I run with the crowd when it comes to daylily affinities. But I ask you, who could fail to fall for a flower named ‘Primal Scream’? Apparently, nobody. So few can resist its magnificence that ‘Primal Scream’ has been voted #1 repeatedly by people who know. I speak, of course, of the American Hemerocallis Society and their popularity poll. ‘Primal Scream’ won most recently in 2010, but this isn’t the first time it seduced the judges. Despite the fact that this 1994 hybrid by Curt Hanson (the same hybridizer who brought us daylilies with names like ‘Arrogant Bastard’ and ‘Slipped my Disco’, check out his website at www.crintonic.com) could be called “old news,” it still wows the crowd. And by the way, Curt Hanson will be lecturing to the Connecticut Daylily Society on March 19, 2011 , check www.ctdaylily.com/CDS.html for more details.

But I didn’t know anything about popularity polls or even Stout Medals (and yes, ‘Primal Scream’ took that award home also) when Richard Daniel dropped ‘Primal Scream’ off. (And just in case you haven’t met Richard Daniel, in addition to being a gardener of frightening ability, he’s also a hemerocallis hybridizer with some impressive introductions to his credit.) I was just an unsuspecting neighbor with an indecent amount of garden for one girl, and not enough hemerocallis (in some people’s opinion) in that immodest expanse of cultivated land. It was a scheme, of course. It was a trick. But I went down with a smile.

I’m talking about molten lava colors; I’m speaking of a crackling conflagration of hues laid into thick, wavy petals. On ‘Primal Scream’, the flower is not just orange — it’s fire licked over red hot coals. The petals are long and sleek. Categorized in the “Unusual” group, it has long, octopus-like petals with slight cinching along the edge (not to be confused with ruffles). The petal span is broad (7.5 inches), the flowers linger no longer than the typical one day time allotment, but plenty of buds adorn each stalk and mucho stalks jut from each fan. The fans have long, tidy leaves with the flowers held above.

I had to ask Richard about the qualities that make a daylily winning material, and he clued me in. It’s not enough to merely take one region by storm. For a daylily to chalk up a winning streak of ‘Primal Scream’s proportions, it has to perform throughout the country. By perform, he means producing flowers — which aren’t always in the cards for hemerocallis in the South.

So, what sort of stunts did it pull off in my garden? ‘Primal Scream’ lived up to its name. It’s impeccably good looking throughout its long blooming spree. So far, so good with its rust resistance. Foliage looked great after the last spike was gone. This is a keeper.

It should be said that ‘Primal Scream’ is not the only hemerocallis that Richard Daniel brought that day. He also foisted ‘Red Volunteer’ on me, which won #4 in last year’s popularity rating. It’s true cherry red and the flowers have a nice form. What can I say? The man has taste. And Sydney Eddison has also done her part to populate my garden with addictive daylilies. I blame them both. And now the Connecticut Daylily Society is in on the scheme. I don’t stand a chance.

By the way, I’ll be doing a Terrarium Workshop for the Connecticut Daylily Society on March 5, 2011 at 11:00 in Avon. Contact tvcotter@comcast.net for more information.

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