Golden Spread Daylily Society
Established October 29, 1991

Email Contact: Joan Avampato,

Club Presidents
Year President Year President
1991-92 Maxine Gault 1996-98 Annie Weinreich
1993 Doug Smith 1999-2000 Joan Hernon
1994-95 Ruth Malacara 2001-18 Doug Smith

History by Annie Weinreich
Reprinted from the Region 6 Newsletter, Summer 1999

Although the history of the daylily in Amarillo is long, the history of the Golden Spread Daylily Society is short. During the 1940s and 1950s, interest in daylilies ran high. Kate Graham, a woman who later continued to have a profound impact on our Golden Spread group, was very active in planting daylilies in public parks and around public buildings. Many of these daylilies were ordered from Hugh Russell of Russell Gardens in Spring, Texas. On March 6, 1945, the daylily was adopted as the Official Flower of the City of Amarillo. The next year Hugh Russell honored Amarillo by introducing a new cultivar, Hemerocallis 'City of Amarillo', a beautiful golden yellow daylily.

Over 45 years later interest in growing daylilies in the Texas Panhandle was rekindled. Jane Meyers, an official of the Amarillo Garden Center, organized a bus tour to Doug Smith's Pampa, Texas garden, about 60 miles Northeast of Amarillo. On Saturday, June 29, 1991, fifty-five visitors oohed and aahed over the beautiful garden full of daylilies. Doug had been a member of AHS for a number of years, and his garden contained well-grown cultivars from a wide variety of national hybridizers. Several of the visitors asked Doug if he would help to organize a daylily club in the area. Doug agreed and this nucleus began to have monthly meetings at the Garden Center and on October 29, 1991, the Golden Spread Daylily Society was formed with fourteen charter members, including Kate Graham.

The name, Golden Spread Daylily Society, was selected so that everyone across the Texas Panhandle might feel welcome to join the group. Maxine Gault was elected as the first President, with Doug Smith the Vice President in charge of programs. Ruth Malacara was the Secretary-Treasurer.

The goals that the group set were to create daylily plantings around the Garden Center, to learn more about basic cultural practices, companion planting and landscaping with daylilies, and to visit and enjoy each other's gardens.

In 1994, the club hosted its first daylily exhibition, open to the public. A display of cultivar blooms, displayed on Styrofoam in water picks, amazed all that attended. Several years later a clinic was offered with the yearly exhibition, with demonstrations of planting and dividing daylilies, techniques of hybridizing explained, slides of daylilies and their use in landscaping, etc.

To honor Kate Graham's outstanding contribution to the distribution of daylilies in the Panhandle, the developing daylily garden at what is now called the Amarillo Botanical Gardens was named in her honor.

Another one of the group's early members was Billee Johnson, mother of the Florida hybridizer, Ra Hansen. Billee was wonderfully generous in her gift of Ra's more recent introductions to the Kate Graham Garden, as well as plants which she donated for the twice yearly plant sales. Billee was aided by Maria Escamilla, who also joined the club, and they both traveled more than 60 miles from their homes to Amarillo for the monthly meetings. Billee's knowledge, energy, and enthusiasm were contagious, and "digs" at her trailer home in Summerfield became fun outings. The groups who gathered there were known as the Golden Spread Daylily Society's Digging Brigade.

When Billee passed away in late 1994, at age 96, the club was greatly saddened. In early 1995, we were offered Billee's entire garden at a wonderful price, If we could dig it out immediately. Our little group, over the span of two weekends, drove the 60 miles and dug that entire garden, clump by clump, trying to keep the labels with the proper plants. Over the years, Billee's ability to chart her newer acquisitions from her daughter had become less accurate, so we were trying to identify them, with Maria's help, and often ended up with questions about the correct names. We moved them to Kate Graham's vegetable garden. While Kate's guidance and inspiration had been of vital help in the earlier years, now her vegetable garden became equally as vital as our stockpile of daylilies for both our sales and the daylily garden that bore her name. The clumps of daylilies dug from Billee Johnson's garden were planted "cheek to jowl" with name labels between them, and served as our source of sale plants for several years, while dear Kate Graham, bless her heart, obviously lost the use of her vegetable garden. Her enhanced soil was incredible, and resulted in increased growth of the daylilies which often made it hard to tell where one cultivar stated and another left off. As we offered these plants for sale, if we were not sure what they were due to mislabeling, or loss of label, we would call them "B.J.U.s" (Billie Johnson Unknowns) and sell them as lovely but unidentified orphans for $1.00 a fan. People didn't realize that they may have bought some of the wonderful newer introductions from Ra Hansen, via her Mom, and via the club, for only a dollar, just because we were unwilling to sell plants to the public unless we were absolutely sure what they were.

Despite our short history and our relatively small number of members, we feel a real sense of accomplishment in having introduced countless thousands of modern daylily plants into public and private plantings in the Texas high country.

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Revised: 12/30/2017
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