Daylilies have intrigued American perennial gardeners since plant geneticist Arlow Stout began tinkering with their chromosomes in the 1930s. Although many hemerocallis hybridizers possess horticultural training, many are hobbyists — gardeners with an interest in a specific species. The Siloam daylilies, developed in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, were created by a gifted hobbyist.
Pauline Henry spent the second half of her 92 years creating revolutionary hemerocallis cultivars. When she registered them with the American Hemorocallis Society, she started each name with the word Siloam to clearly identify the plant as a Henry cultivar. With the assistance of her husband, Ralph, she introduced over 450 new hybrids, over 300 of which she registered with the AHS, and over 150 of which won Society awards. Her Siloam Double Classic won the Society’s most prestigious award, the Stout Silver Medal. Henry was awarded the 1985 Bertrand Farr Silver Medal, awarded to AHS members who have achieved outstanding results in hybridizing daylilies.
The name Siloam indicates that Pauline Henry developed the cultivar in her Siloam Springs, Arkansas garden. Most Siloam hybrids are diploid plants, meaning they have two sets of chromosomes. Although diploid daylilies tend to be smaller and their colors more muted than the newer tetraploid varieties — plants that have four sets of chromosomes — there are more diploid cultivars and they are easier to cross-breed. The Henrys worked only with dormant daylilies — plants that die down in fall and grow new each spring — and experimented with reblooming traits.
Early efforts concentrated on small, heavy bloomers with strikingly-colored eyes. Beginning in the 1970s, the circular, recurved Siloam hybrids began appearing in nursery catalogs. Single flowers have three petals and three sepals, all broad and recurved and often ruffled. In many hybrids, all six tepals carry contrasting maroon or lavender eyes — color surrounding their throats — on pale cream or gold backgrounds. Flowers measure 2 or 3 inches across on heavily budded scapes above compact plants.
Wide tepals and circular flower shapes remained typical of Siloam hybrids, but Pauline Henry created larger, medium-sized plants through the 1980s and 1990s. Flower forms included double, peony-type blooms that were more brightly-colored and heavily ruffled. Where early flowers featured prominently textured tepals, later hybrids feature highly-raised midribs down the center of each tepal and deeply sculpted and ruffled tepals.