Daylily Lady: Isabel Hibbard Gardens

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Isabel Hibbard Gardens:
Late Season Jewels on Long Island

"Isabel Hibbard' garden for all seasons in Farmingdale, NY"

Spring has sprung! We who put our Long Island gardens to bed last fall have watched them awaken, with crocus, narcissus, and tulips beginning the display we have anticipated through winter's winds, snow, ice, and forbidding cold.

More importantly, we now see the fans of those magical plants that bring us the delights of bright blooms, edged, ruffled, maybe double, hopefully fragrant, each lasting only one day, promising us a different garden every morning, as no other plant can.

For most of us, the daylily season will begin in June, with a few early bloomers, and peak in July, with a few daylilies carrying on into august, and we say goodbye to that stalwart lady, h. Sandra Elizabeth (Stevens, 1983), along with the rest of our daylilies, for another year. Could it all be over - the member auctions, the seedling dances, the garden tours, the blue ribbons, the plants divided, shared, and sold, the sweet rainbow trumpets gone for another year?

There is a special Long Island garden, where all of the magic continues, where the jewels of the garden carry on their display, and where a different late and very late show is just beginning. These daylilies, bred for flower size and extended bloom, and, if possible, for fragrance, but more importantly, for their ability come into flower after many daylilies have finished, or along with or even after don Stevens' famous traditional late season marker, are the results of thirty years of hybridizing.

Their creator, Isabel Hibbard, garden and exhibition judge for the Long Island Daylily Society, known to many local garden clubs and to daylily aficionados as far away as Kentucky and Poland, deadheads (with the help of her husband Tom, the hybrid photographer), hundreds of blooms each evening, in order to have a "clean" garden in the morning; her daily bloom statistics remain constant as the calendar moves into August.

These "latelilies" are often the result of crosses of other late-bloomers, as well as of her own late hybrids and seedlings; there are also some inspired crosses, in which recessive late genes seem to be coaxed out of cultivars registered and blooming considerably earlier. While many of Isabel's other hybrids sport names which capture the special essence of each flower, or commemorate an important occasion or friendship, her late hybrids are generally identifiable by references to time.

Regis Philbin has no idea that the phrase "final answer" (h. final answer (Hibbard, 2001)) has a life outside of his game show, and reporters on the eleven o'clock broadcast are not the only people talking about an immediate news flash (h. latebreaking news, (Hibbard, 2002)). Captain Kirk can come to this garden in September to explore yet another "final frontier" (h. Final Frontier (Hibbard, 1997), a late cultivar which sports both single and double blooms was christened, however, in a moment of whimsy, h. multiple personality (Hibbard, 1996).

Isabel began her hybridizing in the 1970's. She had become interested in the special charm of the daylily a few years earlier, discovering its many colors, and therefore, its garden impact, as well as the delicate beauty of the many diploids then available, and bought some of her first plants from a local gardener.

She soon found her way to the Long Island Daylily Society, where other hemaholics were trading plants and, of all things, hybridizing! Like many gardeners before her, Isabel was hooked, and set out to create her own daylilies, with her first introduction the uniquely-colored h. Matrix (Hibbard, 1983), out of Munson, Spalding, and marsh lines.

Registered as a raspberry pink, it glows across the garden, its solid substance hinting at other hues, the varied shades of dark purple, rose, pink, grape, cream, and raspberry hidden in the orchid and pink colors of its parents, h. sari (Munson, 1973) and h. Yesterday Memories (Spalding, 1976). It is named after a potentially productive venture of the time, which is, unfortunately, no more. h. Matrix, the daylily, is, however, a classic.

Isabel also discovered a serious limitation of the then current daylily population, in that, aside from a few rather well-known cultivars, most of its members confined their gorgeous activity to the months of June and July, so that the August garden seemed suddenly subdued, leaving gardeners to thank themselves for the annuals they had planted in may. Two late-blooming daylilies followed, the reliable h. Antisana (Hibbard, 1985) and h. golden finale (Hibbard, 1985), both out of h. Jennifer Grovatt (Grovatt, 1975) and h. Drifted Snow (hall, 1964), neither of which is a late-bloomer.

Isabel soon began to develop her own lines, crossing her seedlings as well as her own introductions with each other and with other daylilies, the combinations and results often surprising. Today, as well as back then, all daylilies entering and resulting from this process need to be "good performers," with vigorous growth, good bud count and branching, and blooms of good substance, which are fresh at deadheading time.

Seedlings are evaluated over several years, in order to give them time to mature and display their potential. all daylilies are given more than an adequate opportunity to do this; if they do not do well, they are moved, hence the joke in the garden about "IBM" or "I've Been Moved" plants, who have been given a better location and extra manure and fertilizer, in order to fully evaluate them. Visit her AHS display garden; those daylilies in separate beds along the sides of the garden, with "IH" labels, are being well-nurtured, but they are on trial!

Every hybridizer has that one daylily now and then that challenges this decision-making process, and one sometimes needs the encouragement and "critical eye" of another daylily person in the evaluative process. Early on in her career, Isabel was thus assisted on one occasion, it seems, by friend, fellow daylily enthusiast, and LIDs member, the late Roswitha Waterman, an internationally known daylily advocate, who, as the story goes, prevented Isabel from tossing the seedling which would become her first registered hybrid double, the prolific and very fragrant h. double Perico (Hibbard, 1986).

Stand in a garden where this light lemon yellow double is in bloom, and you will begin to sniff the air, looking for the nearby rose garden; the culprit turns out to be a daylily, which, once established, can sport over thirty buds per scape. (This author can personally testify to its ability to pass along its fragrance and bud count to its progeny.) it is the parent of yet another noteworthy hybrid, Isabel's h. My Darling Baby (Hibbard, 1994), also a double, which, at 10 inches tall, with a flower width of 2.5 inches, may well be the world's most dwarf and smallest daylily.

My Darling Baby in turn, along with h. baby blues (Stamile, g., 1990), is the parent of h. Rebecca Ann Dean (Hibbard, 2001), a late-blooming miniature apricot double. There are many other doubles, such as the coral pink h. Double Aurora (Hibbard, 1999), her h. Double Life (Hibbard, 1999), a cream with pink highlights, and her h. Macarena (Hibbard, 1996), a double mango whose name means "showoff," and it certainly is. A tetraploid double, h. Machu Picchu Sunset (Hibbard, 1998), is a gorgeous medium orange stunner, bred from two non-double parents.

H. My Darling Baby and its daughter bloom in their creator's miniature bed, where they have plenty of company. Isabel's h. Double Cutie Pie (Hibbard, 2004), at 2.25 inches, is technically smaller, but alas, is 12 inches tall. the single, h. Tiny Tartan (Hibbard, 2005), a mid-ribbed dusky rose bitone whose colors and markings are reminiscent of the plaids of Scotland, is also a tiny treasure, with a bloom size of 2.75 inches, and a height of 14 inches.

H. My Tracy Pie (Hibbard, 2001), a mid-late, 3-inch eyed, lavender miniature, which is 18 inches tall, was named for a friend's daughter. Her Lilliputian Lovely (Hibbard, 2005), which is a mid-late cream with a double rose yellow halo, definitely is. Isabel's h. Merry Munchkin (Hibbard, 2002), a prolific plant whose many buff-colored flowers sport striking red eyes, is a midseason miniature.

Isabel's hybrids have explored most categories and colors of daylilydom; she has not forayed into spider country, due to what she perceives as the difficulty of hybridizing those with sturdy, upright stems, and her preference for more formal flower types, although her h. Late Session (Hibbard, 2005), a near-white crispate diploid, comes close.

Again, her hybrids continue to be marked by the same "inspired crosses" seen in the beginning of her career, and many continue to recognize the distinctive beauty of the diploid, while others appreciate the vigor and greater genetic potential of the tetraploid. There are whites, creams, lavenders, purples, reds, yellows, oranges, and even "blues," and eyed, edged, or watermarked, the quality, skill, and talent are the same. The achievements of this "backyard breeder," however, are best understood when we look at her career with the calendar in mind.

According to the records of the American Hemerocallis society, of Isabel's one hundred nine hybrids to date, twenty-three are registered as mid-late, twenty as late, and thirty-one as very late. In Long Island terms, this means that most (two-thirds) of her daylilies bloom beginning in the later part of July, and continue through August and September, with a few still going in October.

Thirty-Four midseason daylilies round out the remainder, along with one registered as early; this cultivar, h. early bird special (Hibbard, 2000), a pale yellow with a red eye, represents Isabel's beginning efforts to extend the daylily season in a different way.

Her h. Long Distance Runner (Hibbard, 2003), a rebloomer which begins midseason, rests, and begins again in late season, is also a season extender. There are no early midseason registrations, as Isabel's hybrids pick up where those pretty, have-to-have-it introductions used to leave us wanting.

In midseason, in addition to a number of doubles, there are the "luscious" pinks, such as her h. Imbabura (Hibbard, 1985), h. pink marzipan (Hibbard, 1987), and h. Victorian Sonnet (Hibbard, 1996), whose heredity blends that of her own initial crosses with that of later classic daylilies, such as the famous h. fairy tale pink (pierce, 1980).

There are bitones, such as her h. My Sweet Love (Hibbard, 1993), a cross of fairy tale pink with RA Hansen's h. So Excited (Hansen, 1986). There is the stunning h. music of the night (Hibbard, 2005), a bluish violet with a lavender watermark and white edge, out of Munson's h. Sovereign Queen (Munson, R.W., 1983), a bluish lavender, and his h. Court Magician (Munson, R.W., 1987), a deep purple with a chalky lilac eyezone, and the equally gorgeous h. Rococo Rose (Hibbard, 2005), a dusty rose with a darker penciled halo and a heavily bubbled gilt edge, out of h. Ida's Magic (Munson, i., 1988) and h. Canadian Border Patrol (Salter, 1995). h. Blue Sunday (Hibbard, 2009), a bluish lilac, appears to represent a new direction, and is out of h. Wedding Band (Stamile, 1987) and Jeff Salter's h. Prince Of Midnight (Salter, 1990).

Isabel's mid-lates extend the show and the color palette, with more doubles, and more innovative crosses. There are dark lush purples, such h. Fateful Encounter (Hibbard, 1993), a cross of the pale pink h. Tender Love (Yancey-Harrison, 1980), and wild's h. Grape Velvet (Wild, 1978), and her popular h. Officer and Gentleman (Hibbard, 1997), a cross of h. Fateful Encounter (Hibbard, 1993) with the famous h. Catherine Neal (Carpenter, j., 1981).

A standout, from the same cross, h. that Old Black Magic (Hibbard, 1998), is a deep purplish black, which is sunfast at 3 p.m. in the July sunshine. her h. Hungarian Rhapsody (Hibbard, 2005) is a show-stopping wine red, with a darker halo and a lighter watermark, again out of Pat Stamile's h. Wedding band (Stamile, 1987) and Jeff Salter's h. Prince Of Midnight (Salter, 1990), a dark royal purple.

Isabel's late and very late daylilies are some of her favorites, as their reliable appearance after many earlier daylilies have "bloomed out" eases the often too rapid passing of the daylily season; it appears, however, that the various crosses of late genes can apparently result in mid-late-, late-, or very late-blooming offspring, or, as seems typical for Isabel, late-bloomers emerge routinely where none might be otherwise expected.

Her lates are plentiful and begin to extend the season in shades of white, red, yellow, apricot, pink and purple. One of the most striking of these is her Autumn Reverie (Hibbard, 2002), a bright red and white edged bicolor whose parentage pays tribute to the late daylilies of Kennedy and Allgood; her h. Last Creamsicle (Hibbard, 2002) and h. Latebreaking News (Hibbard, 2002) are light orange bitones from the same parentage.

Also late, h. Final Circle (Hibbard, 2000) and Farewell Party (Hibbard, 2000) are rich purples with starburst halos. h. Imperial Ball (Hibbard, 2001) is also a late bloomer out of h. pink flirt (Dekerlegand, 1987), registered as early, and her own midseason h. my sweet love (hibbard, 1993). There is also the gorgeous h. Tokay Wine (Hibbard, 2005), the result of a cross of Pat Sayers' h. Passion's Promise (Sayers, 1999) and the vigorous classic, h. Red Volunteer (Oakes, 1984).

The display begun, the late august garden is further graced by the blooms of some of Isabel's very late hybrids; others, such as those in her "September" series, reserve their show for several weeks, and many continue into October. Perhaps the most vivid of these is the pure red crimson finale (hibbard, 1997), out of h. Bridget (Pittard, 1974), and h. cherry festival (Yancey-Harrison, 1973), both mid-season bloomers.

There is also the delicate h. end of story (Hibbard, 2002), a mauve-rose bicolor again from Kennedy lineage. There are the impressive, eight-inch, prolific final frontier (Hibbard, 1997) and the unusual watermarked soft rose last chapter (Hibbard, 1999), which is also very fragrant.

Another watermarked very late daylily is the deep rose h. late interlude (Hibbard, 1996), a cross of bill Munson's h. Spanish lemon (Munson, w., 1983), and Virginia peck's familiar lavender bicolor, h. Fall Farewell (peck, 1975). h. final answer (Hibbard, 2001) is a prolific plant, with blooms of clear wine with lemon halos.

There are also those hybrids whose names herald the approach of fall and the end of the daylily season, such as the copper bitones h. harlequin's fall parade (Hibbard, 2004) and h. copper canyon autumn (Hibbard, 2009). Fittingly, among the latest blooming of these many plants is a very, very late-blooming cultivar named h. Hasta la vista, baby! (Hibbard, 1998).

So, if your garden is a bit low on that daylily pizzazz as the season advances, or your late daylilies are a bit lonely, disdaining their forced association with annuals, there are many other jewels to keep them company -to be found on long island, in the special garden of Isabel Hibbard.

Her work is much more extensive and valuable than this review can hope to indicate. Among her cultivars might be found "etwas für alle," or "something for everyone." What you have read about here is the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

The rest of Isabel's garden also challenges the calendar. From snow crocus, hellebores, and eranthus to anemones and chrysanthemums, there is something in bloom in Isabel's garden eleven months of the year.

An extremely knowledgeable plantswoman, Isabel can introduce even the most seasoned gardener to a new plant or variety, and this includes all manner of shrubs, shade- and sun-loving annuals and perennials, plants grown from hardy and tender bulbs, rhizomatous plants, and rock garden perennials, including rare alpine plants and European pink violets, all of which can be found in her garden. it is truly a blessing for all of us that she made room for the daylilies!

When asked how she achieves these results through her crosses, Isabel replies humbly, "you never know" but somehow she does.

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