Professor Evelyn Hiatt to Speak at Opening of Dazzling Daylilies at the Botanical Gardens

Posted: Monday, June 15, 2015 12:00 am

For the past five years, folks walking around Owensboro could look up to a sky filled with clouds, birds — and a few hot-air balloons.

The balloons will return Friday through Sunday as part of the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden’s sixth annual Dazzling Daylilies — Balloons Over the Garden. The overall festival will begin Wednesday at the garden, 25 Carter Road.

The hot-air balloons may be standout performers, but the garden’s daylilies are the stars of the festival.

The garden’s nationally recognized daylily display — some hybridized by the garden’s own Bill Tyler, co-director with his wife, Susie — features 500 cultivars, including the “Queen’s Collection,” a collection of daylilies from Philpot’s Pinecliffe Gardens identical to those in Queen Elizabeth II’s garden in England; a bed of cultivars that won the Stout Silver Medal, presented annually by the American Hemerocallis Society; and hybrids from Daylily World, Thoroughbred Daylilies, Wonderland of Daylilies and other Kentucky gardens.

Festival-goers can also visit the daylily dig bed and take flowers home for $10 per clump.

“The daylily garden has been beautiful from the start, but it’s really grown with the added collections,” Susie Tyler said. “It’s an excellent reason to keep daylilies at the forefront with 
this event.”

Dazzling Daylilies will open with its monthly Walk & Talk luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. It is titled “Hybridizing” by Ernie Hiatt, principal scientist at Kentucky BioProcessing, and Evelyn Hiatt, biology professor and chair of the natural sciences and mathematics division at Kentucky Wesleyan College. The luncheon also serves as the sixth annual Nellie Rarick Memorial Lecture, named after a late hybridizer and friend of the garden.

“They’ll break it down to everyday language about hybridizing, even more than daylilies,” Tyler said.

Gardeners and flower lovers have always enjoy the daylilies, but the garden aims to include things for all interests each year.

“We took a big risk with the balloons,” said garden board President Bob Smiley. “It was something we hadn’t seen here, so we thought it’d be a big draw. Here we are on year No. 4 (since adding balloons to the festival) and it seems to draw a wide variety of people. It’s unique in Owensboro and there is great support.”

Musical performances, barbecue and the lantern launch have also become favorites among festival-goers. And in the past few years, the Kentucky Travel Industry Association and the Southeast Tourism Society have taken notice, naming the garden on Top 10 and Top 20 lists.

“Everything isn’t exclusively centered around daylilies,” Smiley said. “Even if you want to just come for the entertainment, children’s activities, just to picnic, or watch the sky light up with the lanterns, you can. There’s a little something for everyone.”

Angela Oliver, 270-691-7360,

Courtesy Messenger-Inquirer