It all started a few years ago. More precisely, on July 24th 2003. The official birthday of Artemesia Daylilies.
A trip to Alain’s mother in Trois-Rivières, Québec, precipitated the whole journey. During the visit of a nearby daylily grower’s operation, Al turned around and said: “Why don’t we too grow daylilies commercially?” Of course, we totally jumped on the idea. We had similar field-growing conditions in Priceville, Ontario, acres to grow and expand, and a greenhouse to start seedlings in.
A few hundred varieties later and an addictive hobby (mainly) under control, we set up shop, in-person and online, and exhibited at Canada Blooms. Although we really loved the day-to-day operation of the gardens, the maintenance alone of large-scale display beds, a production field and an extensive potted area took every single minute of our free time. Imagine having to continuously weed ninety-two 40-foot beds! Ugh!
Through this hobby gone wild adventure, we have had, and still have, the pleasure and privilege of meeting countless amazing people (now friends) from all walks of life, from the greenest of gardeners to the real seasoned ones. Having been invited to many horticultural societies, we could spread the daylily gospel about the ABCs of growing this stunning and sturdy plant, division techniques and the newest and hottest in this always-evolving field. Frills, teeth, double edges, blue flowers, broken patterns? Name it, we’ve got it!
Of course, with all this amazing genetic pool, we had to try our luck at hybridizing, waking up early to race the bees to the blooms! After growing thousands of seedlings, we were fortunate enough to select a few for introduction. As many of you already know, all planets have to be aligned before a desirable plant (in our humble eyes) makes it to the coveted “to-be-introduced” list.
All of that was great, but the pull of the city was strong. We looked at houses in Toronto and were ready to relocate. Then Al, tirelessly sifting through MLS listings, saw a lovely property for sale in the Beaver Valley. Well, that sealed our fate. No more Toronto. We instantly fell in love with the property, even under 5 feet of snow! What a gorgeous area. So, we made an offer and the rest is history. We now proudly call Kimberley HOME. The community’s warm welcome truly made us feel special, as a business and as individuals.
But those daylilies had to follow. So, in May 2014, we started selecting amongst the thousands of seedlings and the 1,400 varieties we had been collecting for years. With limited growing space, only 675 cultivars made the cut; we had to narrow it down to the best growers, the most popular, and the most stunning flowers. (Really, how many yellow varieties can someone grow?!) The task that was supposed to take 6 weeks (we thought, so naively) ended up taking 6.5 months! ARRRRGGGHHHH! R & R, for most, means “Rest & Relaxation”. For us, that meant “Rocks & Roots”! Welcome to the Valley, boys! Klonk! Keep digging! We finished in October, planting the last chosen ones knees deep in snow. “They’re in the ground, they’re safe.”
Then came Spring 2015. During the building phase of our reno project, we showed up on the property to supervise progress on a daily basis. To our delight, daylilies were coming out of dormancy, their tender leaves shyly emerging from the relative safety of their beds. Yippee! None have died.
Well well well. We showed up one morning and (GASP!!!) all plants had been chewed down to nothing! Nothing! No need to explain to our Valley neighbours that the deer did quite a number on the plants! But thank God, this open salad bar season is short-lived; the deer move on to better food sources. The plants kicked right back to life, the first blooms appeared on time and gardeners started showing up. Well worth the time and energy to set this all up.
Fast-forward to now. Even though we went on a little bit of a hiatus in keeping up with the newer hybrids on the market, we made up for it in the Fall of 2023, going on a little bit of a shopping spree, acquiring 250 of the latest and newest. Ouch – $$$. But can’t wait to see them bloom and continue hybridizing with those stunning cultivars.
Alain is about to retire as a French immersion teacher.
Joe keeps on flying the (not-always) friendly skies and taking care of his 140 hives (www.buzzingbushapiary.ca).
When driving by, if you see a car in the driveway, come on up to say hi, have a coffee (or a G &T!), admire our daylilies, ask burning gardening questions or browse in the barn to find the perfect cowhide, all under the watchful eyes of our three cats.
Hope to see you soon!
Alain and Jocelyn