NEWBERRY — A successful partnership between the city of Newberry and Keep Newberry County Beautiful during an Earth Day project this year has led to another beautification project between the two entities.
“The Earth Day project that the City and KNCB partnered on was widely successful and got a lot of positive feedback,” said Assistant City Manager Matt DeWitt. “We had another median plant bed in the City’s Friend Street Parking lots which were similar to the one in the courthouse parking lot, and based on the first project’s success, the city really wanted to partner on another project.”
Gene Crocker, who works at Carter and Holmes Orchids, suggested to DeWitt than he contact Tom Bruce of Carolina Daylilies in Lexington.
Bruce has a collection of daylilies created by the late Valerie Rushing of Newberry. Of the 104 hybridized daylilies Rushing created, 68 have Newberry as a prefix in their name.
“We’re able to do a beautification project with flowers cultured by someone from Newberry and I think that’s a pretty cool story,” DeWitt said. “We got to bring some of Mrs. Rushing’s plants home.”
DeWitt, Danielle Rowe, executive director of KNCB, and landscape architect Laura Dukes picked up the flowers from Bruce on Wednesday and planted them that afternoon with the help of volunteers from the Newberry County Future Farmer’s of America, KNCB, the city of Newberry and Sanders Landscaping.
DeWitt said the beds work as well as they do because the plants need direct sunlight and water and the city already has drip irrigation installed in the islands.
Bruce said he first met Rushing in 1996 when he and his wife were looking to add a perennial garden to their home and were specifically looking for daylilies.
“I was directed to Newberry,” Bruce said.
The “Newberry Borrowed Time” was the first daylily Bruce and his wife purchased from Rushing.
“She told me the flower was named as she was living on borrowed time,” Bruce said. Rushing passed away in 2005, Bruce said.
Bruce and his wife went three to four times during the summer to visit Rushing and purchase plants. Over time, he said, they became good friends. Eventually, they would swap plants — he would give her plants he had purchased in exchange for plants named after Newberry.
“She gave them to me because she knew I would keep them,” Bruce said. “I’ve kept them all these years. I’ve got the largest collection that I know of.”
Dukes shares a similar connection with Rushing.
Dukes said her fondness for daylilies began early in her childhood. Daylilies have always found a place in her gardens and often worked their way into her career as a landscape architect.
“Everywhere I’ve lived I was eager to find a local daylily gardener to help me enjoy the summers,” Dukes said. “Newberry was no different. It took only a few weeks to wander upon a beautiful and bountiful display of daylilies on Boundary Street.”
Dukes said she and Rushing, who was in her 70s at the time, became friends. Rushing could always be found gracefully arched over her garden delicacies as she greeted each new daily blossom, Dukes said.
In 1974, Rushing registered her first daylily with the American Hemerocallis Society online database. Her last introduction was registered in 1999. Although she did not register every hybrid that she created, Bruce said she liked to choose the ones that were really distinctive.
Some of the daylilies were named for family members including the Newberry Mamie Permenter, named after her mother’s maiden name, Mamie. The Newberry Larry Bennett and Newberry Barry Bennett were named after Rushing’s nephews.
“She (Rushing) liked the ones of rich, pure color,” Bruce said of the day lilies. “She liked them to be in the range of 30 to 34 inches tall.”
DeWitt said the daylilies have already passed their blooming season this year so most of the plants will look like topped off vegetation. But come next year and in the following years, the “Newberry daylilies” should be beautiful as the plants are perennial.
The names of plants bought with the KNCB funds to plant include the Newberry Barry Bennett, Newberry Baby Doll, Newberry Larry Bennett, Newberry White Glitter, Newberry Luxury, Newberry Yellow Spider, Newberry Cherub, Newberry Festival, Newberry Prayer Power, Newberry Ceaseless Praise, Newberry Stoplight, Newberry Knobby, Newberry Wins All, Newberry Rose Tip, Newberry Borrowed Time, Sailor at Heart, and Big Theodore.
The flowers were chosen because of their variety of blooming times and colors to add variety to the flower beds on Friend Street.
“We tried to get a combination of early and late bloomers because usually once daylilies bloom, they don’t bloom again for that year,” Rowe said. “We tried to get some that bloom in the spring, summer and fall so they would be constantly blooming.”
Because of their great relationship with the city of Newberry, Rowe said they thought it would be beneficial to partner with them on another project.
“Valerie Rushing was such a huge contributor to helping beautify Newberry when she was alive and we wanted to help continue the legacy that she left,” Rowe said.
Bruce said he would be interested in buying any daylilies created by Rushing for his collection. He also has taken Rushing’s plants and pollinated them with some of his own, although none have been named. Visit www.carolinadaylilies.com or email Bruce at email@example.com for more information.