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All in the family 

For just a few months each year, folks who stop by Joiner Gardens get a glimpse of paradise.

An entire field with bed after bed of colorful daylilies is in bloom. It literally stops traffic.

Joiner Gardens is open May 1 through June 30 so people can stop, look and buy some glorious beauties for their gardens. People come from all over the United States -- from all over the world, in fact -- to view this wonder.

“I just can’t help myself,” one customer said after picking out one more daylily to add to her already considerable bounty. “I saw this one and had to have it, too.”

Joiner Gardens is a family affair, with three generations pitching in. “It was started in 1962 by Enman Joiner, my father-in-law,” says Jan Joiner. “He wanted something to retire to and he got it. He is still out here.”

Enman is no ordinary gardener. He is a nationally known grower who has won numerous awards for his hybrid daylilies. Hybridization is cross pollination to create entirely new daylilies.

While Enman is too modest to discuss his accomplishments, Jan says he is ranked No. 11 in hybridization. “He’s won just about every award you can win,” she says.

Why daylilies? “Color,” Enman says. “Form. Landscape value. They don’t have anything that can touch it.”

The daylily is a member of the lily family Liliaceae. While lilies are in the plant genus Lilium, daylilies are in the genus Hemerocallis, meaning “beauty” and “day.”

Each flower lasts just one day, but there are many buds on the flower stalk, and many stalks in each clump of plants. The actual flowering period is several weeks long, making the daylily a favorite with gardeners.

A bed of daylilies near the Joiner Gardens sign is filled with national award winners. Since suffering a stroke, Enman no longer is as involved with the business as he was, but he keeps a watchful eye on all the activity.

What drew him to hybridization? “The creation of new things,” Enman says. “You can’t imagine how much progress has been made and there is still much more to go with no end in sight.”

The land where the daylilies grow has been in the family a long time. “My dad would take vacation from Union Camp and spend it taking the land back from the weeds,” says Jan’s husband, Royce.

That meant Royce had to help. “I would have to come and work every Saturday to pull weeks and haul compost,” he says. “I didn’t really understand back in my youth,” he says.

But Royce has come around. “It’s not uncommon to see a tour bus come out here,” he says. “Daylily clubs from throughout the Southeast come here.”

There are sometimes surprises. Just last year, the Joiners discovered cluster blooms in the gardens, a spectacular form that has more than six segments.

Despite the name, not all daylilies are diurnal -- plants that bloom during the day. Some daylilies are nocturnal, opening late in the afternoon and remaining open throughout the night.

The Joiners have some extended daylilies. “They bloom both day and night,” Enman says.

It was Enman who taught Jan how to hybridize daylilies. “I told her to put on her dungarees and get ready to dream,” he says. “You have to dream with this to make it come true.”

Jan has won several national awards of her own. She also is the creator of Firefly Frenzy, one of the most popular daylilies in the country.

Jan is a hairdresser turned champion daylily grower. “I married into it,” she says. “I grew up in the city. I did nothing in the yard. But after a while, daylilies kind of grow on you.”

Son Aaron has already begun winning awards for his daylilies. Daughter Rebecca helps out when she has time from her job and school.

You may read in a catalog that daylilies bloom all summer, but it’s not true in Georgia. “Those were written by Northerners,” Jan says. “By the month of July, it is too hot here to plant them.”

The Joiners belong to the American Hemerocallis Society, and run ads in the society’s magazine, The Daylily Journal. That brings in visitors from far away.

“I tell people to come see it,” Jan says. “To me, it’s breathtaking.”

The Joiners have had visitors from as Australia. Enman recalls one time that the gardens were particularly popular.

“We had approximately 730 people come through in two days,” he says. “They came in tour buses and all. Talk about a lot of people in one place!”

Just how many types of daylilies do the Joiners grow? “I have no idea,” Jan says. “There are two acres of daylilies.”

There are some misconceptions about daylilies. “Most people think daylilies are orange,” Jan says. “But they come in all colors except blue and a true white. They come close to white, but always have a little yellow or pink.”

There are potential hazards to the crop. “Deer love to eat them,” Jan says. “Don’t plant them near an oak tree.”

The root system of a daylily is like an asparagus, Jan says. Visitors can come out to Joiner Gardens and look for the plants they want.

“We dig them up,” Jan says. “A plant fills a grocery bag. We dig it up and leave the dirt on it.”

A daylily may not produce many blooms just after it is re-planted. “They do better the following year when the roots are established,” Jan says.

Once a new hybrid is cultivated, it must be named before it can be registered. That is not an easy task.

“You have to choose a name that is different from close to 60,000 names,” Jan says. “It gets very difficult. We use a lot of names with Savannah or Chatham in them.

“We look at billboards, and watch for things on TV,” she says. “We’ve got a customer who sends us lists of possible names.”

One daylily was named “Aunt Lauree” in honor of a favorite relative of Jan’s. Then there is “Sebastian McCrab,” named by Royce for the crab in The Little Mermaid.

The daylily in question had two dark stamens that stood up just like the eyes of Sebastian the cartoon crab. “I’d say, ‘Who does it look like? Like Sebastian on The Little Mermaid,’ and everyone would agree,” Royce says.

Choosing a name is very important. Recently, Jan was awarded an achievement medal for a new daylily, and must have a name for it within 30 days or she won’t get the medal.

Royce and Jan have been traveling around the country to talk to gardeners about daylilies.

“We’ve been to Pennsylvania, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Virginia and North Carolina,” Royce says. “It is interesting to meet people and learn how they grow daylilies.”

Despite their level of expertise, even the experts find something new every year.

“I’m still learning,” Jan says. “If you ever quit learning, you know too much. There is always something to learn about daylilies.”



Joiner Gardens is located at 9630 Whitfield Ave. The gardens are open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through June 30. Visits also may be arranged by appointment. For information, call 355-5582 or visit www.joinergardens.com.



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