He’ll never say so, but Don Hanson is an expert when it comes to roses … and daylilies … and bromeliads.
In fact, Hanson seems to know something about everything that grows out of the dirt — and he has the garden to prove it.
“I got started with gardening when I was an 8-year-old boy in Minnesota and my mother would make me pull weeds,” he said. “But I got really interested when I had a job working for a seed company when I was in college.
“It was up to me to go to stores at the end of the season and round up seed packets that hadn’t sold. I was supposed to take them back to the company, but along the way, I misappropriated a few packets.”
This early transgression may be a partial explanation for the glorious riot of colors and entanglement of flowers that announce Hanson’s home on an otherwise chromatically understated street in Algiers.
White roses, lipstick-red amaryllis, orange and yellow nasturtiums, purple and pink dianthus, royal purple petunias and cobalt blue bachelor buttons fill the front and driveway beds. At the end of the driveway bed, a gate leads to the rear garden, divided into “rooms” by Hanson.
“Off to one side is where I grow veggies in raised beds,” he said. “I’m not real big on growing veggies, but I do have 20 to 30 tomato plants and some pole beans.
“I like Blue Lake pole beans, because they made a nice vertical planting at the rear of a bed and because I can harvest them for up to eight months, as long as I keep planting them.”
Throughout the remainder of his backyard, Hanson has laid out a series of paths that lead through the garden and encircle a pond and waterfall. He utilizes one of the exterior walls of his garage for driftwood-mounted bromeliads.
“When I know it’s going to get real cold,” he said, “I just take them down from the wall and bring them into the garage until the coast is clear.”
But for all the bromeliads and native irises, for all the roses and amaryllis, it’s the daylily that really stokes Hanson’s passion.
“I collect seed when they finish blooming and then I plant it,” Hanson said. “If I’m lucky, the new plants will bloom the next year at the same time. What makes daylilies so interesting is that I hybridize them so that I really don’t know what they will look like until they bloom.”
According to Hanson, it takes about two months after daylily seeds sprout for them to grow about 6 inches. That’s the point at which he’ll start exposing them to sun, a little at a time, until they can take full sun.
“If you deadhead your daylilies, you’ll never get a seed pod. You need to leave the dead bloom alone, and after about six weeks, you should have a mature seed pod the size of a golf ball. You want a seed that is dark brown or black,” he explained.
When the daylilies are ready, Hanson tucks them into his beds to add still more variety to the plantings. He noted the importance of dividing clumps of daylilies every few years or else risk having them bloom less and less.
“I’ll be teaching a daylily class at a garden club next week and have a whole bin of daylilies I’ll be taking with me to give away,” he said. “There are always plenty to go around.”