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Diggin' In: Master daylily grower salutes these 'one-day flowers'

June 22, 2015

Beauty is in the eyes of the arranger, especially when it comes to Frances Thrash and daylilies.

As head of the design division for southeastern Virginia’s Tidewater Daylily Society’s annual plant sale and flower show, Thrash knows how to work daylilies into eye-catching floral arrangements.

Although daylilies can be stunning specimens in floral arrangements, they do come with their downside: The flowers are here today and gone tomorrow. Even so, Thrash thinks the flowers are worth the trouble and time.

"I would always use daylilies with other flowers and/or foliage — never just by themselves," says Thrash. Her arrangement in the 2013 show won first place and went on to win the National Award for the American Hemerocallis Society.

"When entering the flower show, I look for a stalk that has a bud/buds ready to open — vivid color and just cracking open. These will last for this one-day show. No matter how they are treated, they are one-day flowers, hence the name ‘Daylily.’ "

In addition to showing daylilies, Thrash grows about 50 varieties of daylilies among many other plants in her garden in Virginia Beach, Va.

Daylilies are very easy to grow," she says.

"They like sun and bloom best with at least six hours of sun. A little fertilizer in the spring increases their size and number of buds on a stalk, as will watering them about an inch per week. Never-fail daylilies are the ‘ditch’ lilies, which are orange and come in single and double blooms. They literally will grow in a ditch without any care. Others that are wonderful are Stella D’Oro and Lemon Lollipop — rebloomers that will bloom several times during the growing season."

When you arrange daylilies for indoor use, treat them with care, Thrash advises. Bumping them into other flowers or foliage causes the buds to "pop" off and/or get damaged.

"I carry a bucket of water to the garden, cut what I will use and immediately place them in the water," she says.

"Floral preservative will keep them fresh longer, specially the buds, which will open later in the week. Preferably, I like to use stems that have a number of buds on them that will open sequentially with different foliage. The arrangement changes daily as the buds open and others close.

"My preferences in foliage are pittosporum, aspidistra, aucuba, canna leaves, hostas and ferns that are hardened — not new growth. Pure water in a vase or floral foam is easier and if kept wet, keeps the flowers well.

Garden flowers that look good with daylilies in arrangements include herbs, butterfly weed, cockscomb, hellebores and roses, if the colors coordinate, according to Thrash.

Daylilies are only one of many flowers Thrash uses in floral arrangements that have won her awards in many shows over the years. Working with flowers comes natural to her and has for 60 years. Her mom was a floral designer and garden club member, and Thrash was a mere six-year-old when she joined a junior garden club.

"I learned the basics at that tender age: correct proportion, lines and amounts to put in an arrangement," says Thrash, who is also a floral certification teacher at Norfolk (Va.) Botanical Garden, which offers a multi-week course annually. She still works professionally for Wholesale Flower Market and for herself, doing parties and weddings.

Her awards from flower shows are many, according to those who know her. Even Thrash has lost count, she says. She’s president of the Tidewater District of the Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs, as well as a master judge and president of the Virginia Flower Show Judges Council. Thrash teaches Flower Show School for the National Garden Clubs throughout the United States, according to her biography, and is a member of three garden clubs

"I’ve always loved flowers from my early years onward, and still find great joy in them visually and physically, with both the touch and the smell of most of them," Thrash says.

"I love to teach and share my love of flower arranging with others. It’s generally a peaceful and inspiring experience."

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Associated Press