Day lily gardeners like John Richter love July. That's when their favorite perennials produce a riot of color from yellow through pink, purple, melon and red.
The flowers often show two or more colors on one bloom, lots of petals, ruffled edges and might even have sparkles like gold, silver or diamonds.
The Warrenville gardener says this beauty peaks in July, but the blooms continue through August and September.
"Color, color, color. It's all about color," said Richter.
And it's easy to obtain, he insists. Richter believes in mulch, fertilizes a little in the spring and deadheads those thousands of day lilies to keep the garden neat. But he waters only during the most severe droughts and doesn't have time to divide the day lily tubers.
"They're very, very tough," said the gardener. "You can throw a day lily on the road for a month or so, and when you plant it again it will do its thing."
Richter inherited day lilies from two area hybridizers. Check out the red ones growing along his driveway, hybridized by William L. Bell of Glen Ellyn. And while you can appreciate their beauty, Richter can't tell you their names. It seems a young man working for Bell carelessly destroyed all the labels one year. Bell assured Richter he knew his plants well enough to relabel them when they bloomed the next year, but unfortunately he died before that was possible.
Richter also inherited day lilies from Nathan Rudolph of Aurora, another hybridizer.
Only about 125 of Richter's day lily varieties are labeled. Many are planted too densely in the beds for that.
Here are a few in his garden: Totally Awesome, a lavender pink with ruffled edges; rosy pink Double Duchess; pink Splendid Touch; yellow Sarah Christine; pink and green Pink Windmill; and Lake Norman spider, which tends toward purple.
Besides day lilies, Richter also collects hostas -- saying he has labeled 550 different varieties.
"I love the variegated hostas," he said, "and the flowers attract hummingbirds."
A few hosta names captured by a visitor are Sugar Daddy, with large blue-green leaves streaked with white; Island Charm, with smaller green and white leaves; and Fragrant Gold, with flowers providing aroma and the leaves turning from green to gold.
Richter has gardened on his acre in Warrenville for 31 years, which comes in handy when collecting trees is one of your passions. Grafting can grow shrub-type plants on a standard like a tree. Dwarf versions can also be created. One of the showiest trees in Richter's yard is a variegated willow, shiny bright yellow in the summer but showing pink leaves in the spring.
Many of his grafted trees are variegated versions. Aralia variegata grows leaves 3 or 4 feet long with white flowers in the spring. A Colorado spruce called Sunshine creates bright yellow new growth. A tri-color beech glows with reds and purples. A new ginkgo will cascade down like a waterfall, and a cypress glows dark bronze in the fall. And Richter points out a golden compact oriental spruce, weeping larch and variegated lilac.
Richter hosts garden clubs, and now he would like to invite individual gardeners to visit if they call ahead to (630) 393-3279 to make an appointment. If hostas or grafted trees are your passion, you might want to avoid the July rush when the day lily fans are visiting.