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Updated on September 19, 2014


If you enjoy daylilies, then maybe you have wondered if you should enter a favorite daylily in a show . Well, I hope to encourage you to do so, and maybe even enter more than just a few! Here is a behind the scenes look at the 2012 daylily show in Raleigh, NC.

If you're curious about what's behind the scenes of putting on an annual American Hemerocallis Show, follow along! Just envision a sea of hundreds of different shapes and colors and sizes of daylilies, and you will be ready to get the show going, too!

The American Hemerocallis Society is a nonprofit organization that sponsors regional annual daylily shows to educate the public and to help generate a general and scientific interest in the very lovely and easy to care for daylily.

I hope you like this daylily, Appalachian Music ~ this is my hybrid, registered in 2011

Photos by Bev Lemley ~ All rights reserved

The AHS...

The American Hemerocallis Society is a nonprofit organization that sponsors regional annual daylily shows to educate the public and to help generate a general and scientific interest in the very lovely and easy to care for daylily.

Daylilies and all the fun of a summer garden...

Come along!

Getting Ready

Since I'll be behind the scenes, helping to set up tables, filling the display vases with water, and covering the tables tomorrow night, I have to do a lot of prep work ahead of time, as far as getting my own daylilies ready for the show.

Hunting for suitable candidates in the daylily field is the first step. Today was overcast and a bit cool, so it was easier than in years past. The number of spent blooms is the number one concern, as too many and the judges won't like it at all. However, this year, since our peak occurred earlier than usual, we will be allowed to increase the 45 percent max count of spent buds just a tad bit. So looking for plants with a lot of buds quickly sorts out the possibilities.

If I find one that has a lot of good buds, I look at the scape ("stalk") to see if it's pretty straight. A crooked scape just does not show well, plus, it won't fit in the straight small vases easily. Since tthe show is two days away, it's hard to tell for sure if the contenders will bloom or not, but I jot down the possibilities. There will be no time for hunting on Saturday morning!

Get Set!

If I've found a straight scape with lots of buds, one that looks like it could potentially open on Saturday, I have to consider how the scape will show. Daylilies have leaf bracts that tend to have a bit of brown, so off they go! I practiced on a few, to try to get the rhythm right. Some folks prefer to do this before the plant is cut, some prefer the grooming table the morning of the show. Either way, grooming these bracts off so as not to do any damage is a rather slow process, especially since each plant may have five to eight bracts. Practicing up on a few noncontenders helps to get the feel of it.

Hurrying along, leaving the practicing for later, I quickly finish poking and prodding on contenders and make a list of the possibilities for show day. Judging amounts to how well your flower meets the measurements for bloom size set by the hybridizer, it's important to know what those standards are for each flower, as registered with the AHS (American Hemerocallis Society). Looking up each flower will be my homework, when it's dark. The height of the scape should be in line with the registry, too. Since the scape can be adjusted to a "pleasing" height, for the sake of the judges, who can't tilt the flower to examine it, the scape standard height won't be critical. It shouldn't be significantly shorter than stipulated, though! I will use the bloom size for classification, too, for the show entry card. Egads! It's getting closer to reality!


Okay. Now I've done my homework. I've got a list of prospects, greatly weeded down from when I started. I have in mind potential flowers, so tomorrow, I will be working very fast to do a cursory grooming in the field so on Saturday morning, at the grooming table, I will have time to adequately check for last minute things and make mistakes ~ or worse, break a bloom off!

Before it got too dark, I picked my likeliest contender. I looked for the best of all worlds: many blooms, straight scape, bloom potential for Saturday morning, scape without blemish, that is, scaly type things or scars. Now for a really important criteria that the judges will take off for, is the potential for a neighboring bud to touch the bloom. One thing to remember is there will be a certain amount of "sag" on the day of the show, as it is cut in the morning, and waiting until around 11:30 or so to be judged, could be as late as 1:00. If the bloom starts out "crisp" and does not touch the bloom, don't count on it to stay that way. What you can count on is the bloom will shrink back just a bit. If the bloom touches the bud, the judges could deduct a critical two points. If you were in the running for the head table in your category, that two points would cost you.

I learned this lesson with my first show. Rainbow Gold was a beautiful bloom, with a perfect scape, and it just sparkled. But I did not account for the nearby bud ending up touching as the time went on. I watched as the judges' excitement for having found a great flower turned into, "Oh, it's too bad." So from what I have learned, If it looks like the bloom will be touching another bud, something has to give. Either choose another, or be prepared to snip, which will mean another "spent" bloom!

Getting Ready ~ Some More!

At this point, deadheading, or removing the spent blooms, on the contenders and their nearest neighbors is pretty critical. I didn't get to finish this, so I will have to do it first thing tomorrow morning, Friday. The advantage to deadheading is you have a cleaner plant to start with, you can see potential problems and forgo that plant before it's cut, and you also alleviate the meltdown from old daylilies that drip and run over the buds.

What! Not Yet?

Just as it got dark and I had to quit, I had one plant cleaned up, with the brown bracts removed carefully, all the spent blooms cut, and I have a good idea of what scapes on this plant may be candidates. In the process of trimming up the spent blooms, I accidentally cut off a real bud. Huge oops, as this increased the spent bud count, and it was probably the most promising scape. It was getting dark, but still, no excuses! Experience is the best teacher! Now that I've done it, maybe I'll be more careful!

The show starts in a few hours (morning). I've been back over the lilies in the field, rechecking the potential scapes and buds, and a few have been eliminated. I still have about 20 that are good candidates. That's a scary number, because getting them to the show will be a bear! My dad has built carriers, which should make it better, but there is so many bumps along the way, literally!


At 6:00 p.m. I helped AHS Region 15, the Raleigh Hemerocallis Club, set up at Crabtree Valley Mall. By now setting up runs like clockwork ~ under two hours and things were looking good for the morning. I can come as early as I want, the mall opens by 7:00 or so. But do I really want to cut the flowers THAT early? I think I will end up doing most of the work in the field, get ready, and then get the bucket with warm water, get the carriers with water, set it in the sun so that water will get warm (it's chilly still!) and then grab my stuff up, don't forget cotton balls, please! ~ cut the flowers, and then take off. I hope to have two hours for grooming. That means I need to get up at 6:00, which gives me just a few hours sleep. I'm trying not to get nervous, as it's all a learning experience, anyway. We'll see what's blooming in the seedlings; it may be their day to show off!

After helping to get ready at the mall, I come home and start on my homework, writing up the entry tags. Putting on address labels and writing the categories, according to the size will save time tomorrow.

Finally, I'm off to get a short good night's sleep; that's my homework for tonight! G'night!

Show Day!

5:30 a.m., time to get going! Walk the dog, feed the cat, give her her meds, clean the litter box, get a load of wet towels going, and get myself fed. Finally, 7:00, time to get outside. The morning is so cool, the lilies aren't opening up still. So the choosing is a bit tough, since you don't really know if the bloom is marred or not! Tools and accessories and outside I go, chasing the dampness from my feet, and the chill with my jacket ~ I think about how many times I've had to put a jacket on in the middle of June!

With much fretting, looking, checking my list, nodding and shaking my head, and fretful about every detail, about the sacrificing of cutting certain scapes, I finally have everything tucked in and away we go! Their little heads bobbing and my grabbing them to keep them from spinning around, whacking their neighbor. Mynelle's Starfish, is a huge 10-inch flower, was determined to send Rococo, a little spider, spinning. The seedlings I dared to show ~ seedlings rarely score a ribbon ~ looked pretty good and I am satisfied with the three I brought. At least they probably won't embarrass the family!

Tick Tock...

Settling in at a grooming table, I quickly note how much time I have to get them all groomed and to the placement table. 45 minutes. Humm, I have about 15 lilies, that's not very much time. Snipping spent bloom stubs, peeling back brown leafy bracts, and sacrificing too close neighboring buds, holding them up to the light to check for spider webs, spilled pollen on the flower, grabbing the card I had prepared on my homework, I take each one as quickly as possible to the table. Back and forth, almost done ~ and who is that? That's my mom carrying a bucket of lilies from her seedlings ~ 15 minutes before placement is closed! The bucket of seedlings looks so pretty, I jump in and start writing cards up for her. I can't do any of the grooming, but I quickly instruct her, and she works amazingly fast. With others running to the placement table, me writing cards, Mom working quickly, we get at least 10 seedlings to placement. Even after they announce, "One minute left," we manage to get two more sent to the table! That was crazy, to say the least!

Picture by Carol Fortune, with permission

Judging to begin...

We quickly clean up our mess of stems and cotton balls and clippers, snippers, and address labels and clear out. The judging teams will be here soon, and we have to dress the grooming tables and I have to get ready to clerk, that is, be part of a duo that helps the judges see the flowers (they're not allowed to touch them) and put the appropriate ribbons on the cards. It's interesting to see what their honest opinion is about your entries! I wasn't with the seedling judging team, so the results would have to wait.

Some purples, some blues...

Lunch will have to wait, the judging goes until about 1:30. Believe it or not, Mom takes a blue ribbon in seedlings, which is a next-to-impossible thing to achieve! She not only takes a blue, but she takes about three or four reds, and a yellow. Out of my three seedlings, I take a yellow. I'm so proud of Mom, coming in with the goods, and getting the job done. You go, Mom!

My other known hybrids show fairly well, the two I was hesitant on take yellows, the others I was pretty sure on, after all, I had spent two days picking around on them, so I better have something to show (pardon the pun) for it, take purples and blues. None, of course, make it to the head table. But I have learned a few things from this show, the others in the RHC have, too, and next year, there could be new leaders in town!

Picture by Carol Fortune, with permission


After helping to break down, I carry my carriers with flowers in them back to the car; they will bloom and we will enjoy them in the days to come. And there's a lot more than just the spent blooms: A lot was learned, methods for preparation were fine-tuned, more understood about judging, and how good it feels to be a member of a great team that put on a huge show in just a few hours, and the exhileration of taking home a ribbon or two, and learning from what didn't do so well. Yes, the daylilies only last a day, but the memories, forever!

If you love daylilies

...I hope you will consider bringing a few and showing them off next year, when your region has a daylily show. There's so much to take in, so much beauty, that you will want to be a part of it...and the daylily bloom may only last a day, but your memories will last forever!

Do you enjoy daylilies... - ...or have a special story?

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    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 

      5 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Daylillies are one of my favorite flowers so enjoyed your photos and learning about competing in a daylilly flower show.

    • BLemley profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverly Lemley 

      5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      @anonymous: Thank you! I hope if an AHS daylily show come to your area that you will stop and look at all the beautiful flowers and enjoy! Thank you! B : )

    • BLemley profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverly Lemley 

      5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      @anonymous: Thank you so much, Tipi! They are pretty much close to being my babies ~ so thank you for your kind support! B : )

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      OMG, this is such a beautiful lens, the photos are awesome. I love your showcase of Daylilies. :)

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Beautiful daylilies! Thanks for sharing your experience at the Daylily Show.

    • BLemley profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverly Lemley 

      6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      @MatijaB LM: Thank you ~ I agree! The oranges are beautiful! Thank you for stopping by! B : )

    • MatijaB LM profile image

      MatijaB LM 

      6 years ago

      Daylilies are incredible roses. The orange are for me the most beautiful.

    • BLemley profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverly Lemley 

      6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      @LittleLindaPinda: There are many! Thanks for stopping by and taking a look, Linda ~ I appreciate it! B : )

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Incredible. I never realized how many varieties there were. The colors are spectacular.

    • BLemley profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverly Lemley 

      6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      @Gayle Dowell: Thank you so much for your very kind comment! I really appreciate your visit! Yes, there are probably over 60,000 different registered hybrid daylilies ~ and growing! Check out the link to the American Hemerocallis Society's website, where the database is! Have fun! B : )

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 

      6 years ago from Kansas

      I've not seen all the beautiful colors of daylilies. I have just orange and yellow. These are beautiful.

    • BLemley profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverly Lemley 

      6 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      @SgtCecil: Oh, my! I hope you see some somewhere! They are beautiful! I hope you see some soon and can enjoy their beauty. Thank you for stopping by! B : )

    • SgtCecil profile image

      Cecil Kenmill 

      6 years ago from Osaka, Japan

      I've never heard of daylilies. Thanks for the info and those beautiful pictures!


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