The Dayliliy Man and Master Gardener

Paul Owen  Photo by Carl White 

Who do you call when you need to know what vegetables or flowers will grow where you live? If you come from a family of home gardeners or farmers, chances are you already have a good idea of what works for you. If you do not fall into this category a call to your local Cooperative Extension office can set you on the path of great discovery. If your community has an active Extension Master Gardener program you are even more fortunate.

Master Gardeners are a true asset to our communities and without them we would be far less informed on how to plant, grow and enjoy those delightful things that spring forth from the ground.

In the Carolinas we have two excellent state programs. In South Carolina the Master Gardener program is administered by Clemson University and in North Carolina NC State University is the administrator.

Julie Flowers is with the Extension office in Gaston and Cleveland NC, which has a combined total of 150 Master Gardener’s. When ask about Daylilies she could not say enough good about Paul Owen, a world-renowned authority and Daylily hybridizer that resides in Cleveland County.

Julie said Paul is always willing to help the Master Gardener program and when called upon the Master Gardeners are willing to help him as well.  Not so long ago when the American Daylily Society visited Paul’s celebrated display garden he needed help prepping his gardens for the arrival of the national group. When the word went out, thirty Master Gardeners showed and met the task head on, and the gardens were perfect for the arrival of the honored guest.

It was not difficult to find people who have good things to say about Paul, his gardens and his children; that’s what he calls the nearly 300 daylilies he has hybridized and officially named.

During my research visits, I came to understand why people like Paul. He is well educated, practical, funny and driven with a passion of excellence to create something beautiful. Both his father and mother were psychologist and with a smile he said, “that should explain a lot.”

He has what he calls a win, win, win philosophy and he contributes that way of thinking with leading him to where he is now. The property and gardens that he nurtures has turned into a desirable venue for brides seeking that perfect place for the perfect wedding day. The views are outstanding, the gardens are award winning and the new couple get something that they can only get from Paul. He will name one of his new daylilies for the couple’s special day; nowhere else on earth can that happen.

One bride shared in a social post that her wedding day experience at Paul’s venue was so special that they named their first child from the event. “Lilly.”

It was early morning when we arrived with cameras for our production visit to Slightly Different Nursery in Cleveland County. The hotter June weather had set in and I was glad our production was not later in the day.

As it turns out, daylilies like the morning hours and by midmorning they are at peak bloom for the day, which was the perfect time for filming our segment that features the amazing daylilies Paul has cultivated.

We see a lot of daylilies in the Carolinas and their contribution to the beauty of our landscapes can not be denied. In a conversation with American Daylily Society’s past President Nikki Schmith, she shared with me that few people rise to the level of excellence that Paul Owen possess in professionalism, proven ideas and the willingness to push the envelope in the world of hybridizing daylilies. She said “He’s a popular speaker that knows what he is talking about, people just love him”

We had a great time. We learned how the hybridizing process works and why it takes six years to know if a newly designed daylily will make it to market. Most do not, they must be special. Paul’s more popular children are big and proud, have a long blooming season and live a very long time.

Getting to know Paul, the Extension Master Gardeners and the people who value them has been a great joy.