Barth daylilies have a new home at O’Donal’s Nursery in Gorham.

The line was started by Joseph Barth, a Unitarian minister in Alna who hybridized daylilies at his home and sold them mostly during open garden days to benefit nonprofit groups in the area.

On Joseph Barth’s death in 1988, his son Nicholas took over the operation. Nicholas continued as hybridizer even after selling the line to Fieldview Farm in Dresden in 2004.

O’Donal’s has now purchased the line from Fieldview Farm, with Barth to continue as hybridizer, and is moving the plants to Gorham.

“We now own the rights to the line,” said Jeff O’Donal, president of O’Donal’s. “Anything new that Nick decides is good enough to name and introduce, we will be introducing at our nursery.”

The new arrangement will make the line, which Nick Barth calls the longest continuous line of daylily hybridizing in the world, more consistently available to customers. In Alna and Dresden, the daylilies were sold on open farm days. They now will be available in 2-gallon pots at O’Donal’s throughout the growing season.

Barth daylilies created before 2004 have been available, and will continue to be available, at Tranquil Lake Nursery in Rehoboth, Mass., which sells by mail as well as at the nursery. But any introductions of daylilies — which have the botanical name Hemerocallis — will be sold first at O’Donal’s.

O’Donal’s crews dug up and brought back about 170 clumps of daylilies, including some that are in the process of being evaluated for production and some that are named varieties.

The nursery also has about 450 seedlings, which O’Donal says looks a bit like a bed of bluegrass, that will be grown on and evaluated in the future.

O’Donal’s bought the rights to 72 existing daylilies, but one of them could not be found, Barth said. About 40 of those were hybridized by Joseph and 30 by Nicholas. Nick Barth has two more he is ready to name and introduce, and several others he will continue to evaluate.

“When I moved from Alna to Boothbay, we had a very small property, but it is crammed with daylilies,” Barth said. “I will continue to hybridize here as I did when the line was at Fieldview, as well as in Gorham.”

Barth daylilies are noted for their range of colors, the size of the blossoms, the profusion of blossoms and the length of blossom time. Some of the Barth daylilies are night bloomers, which means the blossom opens in late afternoon, stays open all night and goes by the next day. Most daylily blossoms fold up when evening arrives.

“Barth daylilies are distinctly different,” O’Donal said. “There are certain characteristics Nick is looking for, and he can tell in an instant looking at the scape if it has a candelabra branch or multiple branches with multiple flowers.”

They also have a long bloom time, O’Donal said. They are not rebloomers or everblooming varieties, but they do continue blooming for a longer time than most daylilies.

As a personal tribute, the Barth daylilies that Nancy and I have — purchased in the 1980s from Joseph Barth’s Alna home — are large, bright and gorgeous. And this has been a great year for daylilies.

O’Donal’s is going to grow the Barth daylilies in pots for the short term, and will sell them in 2-gallon containers with the Barth name on them. Some of the daylilies will be grown in-ground, and a display garden will be created.

Most daylilies in the O’Donal’s catalog sell for $6.99 to $8.99, and O’Donal expects the Barth daylilies, being in larger pots and a special variety, will sell for a few dollars more.

He did note that some daylilies in the Tranquility Lake catalog are priced at $60, and while he can’t see charging that much, he could see some rare and unusual daylilies going for $40 or so.

The Barth daylilies are the only plant line that O’Donal’s owns, so this is a new field for the company. O’Donal says it’s an attempt to adjust and stay viable in a difficult economy.

“These aren’t cheap. They are special, high-quality, distinctly different daylilies,” he said. “I like to think that people think of O’Donal’s as a place to get top-quality, hardy, special plant material. There are collectors out there who will travel to us to get these Barth daylilies.”

He isn’t sure if owning the line will induce him into getting into mail-order plants, but it’s possibile.

Although O’Donal’s owns the line and will be the first to sell any introductions, O’Donal has no plans to protect the plants in a way that would prevent other companies from buying some of them from him and dividing them to sell on their own.

The only way he would protect a plant, he said, would be for a special introduction named in connection to a nonprofit group so that a part of each sale could go to the group.

Tranquil Lake will continue to sell its line of Barth daylilies, and O’Donal sees the two companies swapping some varieties down the line.

If you want to see the Barth daylilies that Tranquil Lake is selling, go to www.tranquil-lake.com/catalog/Breeders/Barth.htm. O’Donal’s website is www.odonalsnurseries.com.

 

Tom Atwell can be contacted at 791-6362 or at:

[email protected]