Gardening, daylilies help expand woman’s enthusiasm for nature features heraldcourier.com database questions for interview

For kingsport resident susan okrasinski, a long-running interest in the natural world and a more recent obsession with daylilies has blossomed into a full-blown mania for the vibrant summer flowers.

When she first became interested in gardening, okrasinski bought some daylilies at her local garden center, and that sparked what she described as “the beginning of my descent into daylily mania.”

She joined the american hemerocallis society, and when she got her first regional magazine, she noticed that there was actually a club named the tri-cities daylily society based in kingsport.

“I joined that and have been an enthusiastic member ever since,” okrasinski said.Digital camera “I go to almost all of our regional conventions, and after attending my first national convention with more than 600 attendees with the same daylily affliction, I was hooked on those, too.”


“I send these to our daylily magazine editors for publication in the tour garden writeups,” okrasinski said. “I also seem to have become our daylily club photographer.”

Okrasinski noted that the kingsport club is scheduled to host the region 10 convention in 2019 at the meadowview conference resort & convention center in kingsport.

Okrasinski said that one of the events the club is looking forward to this spring is staffing a club table at kingsport’s exchange place when it hosts its annual spring garden fair april 28 and 29.Okrasinski said “we will be talking to people about our club, as well as selling daylilies from our gardens,” she said.

The tri-cities daylily society maintains a web page at www.Tricitiesdaylilysociety.Com, as well as a facebook page, “TRI-CITIES DAYLILY SOCIETY,” at bit.Ly/2ppgryz.

“we meet about six or seven times a year, go on trips and invite speakers in,” okrasinski said. The club is chartered by the american hemerocallis society, which has its own website at www.Daylilies.Org.

The american hemerocallis society also holds a photography contest every year with four categories for submissions. She won in two of those categories four times, and she has served as a judge for four other years.American hemerocallis

“when people ask me for advice, I tell them to take tons of photos and only select the good ones to work with,” she said. “get to know your camera and keep it with you all the time.”

Okrasinski explained that her interest in daylilies comes from their diversity. “for me the appeal is the incredible variety there is in daylilies,” she said. “I checked the AHS database, and at this point in time there are about 90,000 registered varieties.”

She explained that daylilies are extremely easy to hybridize, so there are quite a lot of hybridizers throughout the united states, canada and even across the world.

“as a result there are new things coming out every year,” she said.Okrasinski said “everything started with the orange species, and from this we now have daylilies in every color except true blue and white,” although she added that dedicated daylily enthusiasts “are getting very close to blue.”

“what shows up in garden centers are decades old and usually tissue cultured,” she said. Okrasinski explained that tissue culture works well for the hosta, another popular and diverse garden plant, but it is frowned upon in the daylily world.

Tissue culture involves propagating a plant or flower in large quantities in a short period of time. Cells from a selected plant or flower are used to produce hundreds or even thousands of small plants which, in theory, are like clones of the original plant.Digital camera

“very often the tissue culture is a washed out version of the real thing,” she said, adding that she once heard something very interesting from a well-known hybridizer who was around when the very famous stella de oro, a daylily widely used by landscapers, was first introduced.

“he said you would not recognize the real introduction,” okrasinski recalled. “it was so much more robust and beautiful than the tissue-cultured versions you find today.”

Ironically, the original one has not been found in a few decades, according to okrasinski. “the tissue cultured ones have taken its place,” she noted.

“in addition to falling in love with the different varieties, I found getting to know the people in my club and then venturing out to conventions and getting to know the movers and shakers in the daylily world fascinating,” okrasinski said.American hemerocallis society “every single garden I have visited is unique, and it is so inspiring to see how people create their own outside world.

Northeast tennessee and southwest virginia offer compatible climates for daylilies. “the area we live in is perfect, as we are cold enough in the winter to kill off a lot of the pests and disease that you have to spray for in warmer climates,” she said.

“I do not use any kind of pesticides or herbicides in my garden,” okrasinski said. “this can lead to a pretty weedy garden by late summer when I just can’t take the heat, but so be it.

“I grew up in a magical place called stony brook on long island,” she said. “there is a huge state university there now, but when I lived there that land was a potato field and that area of long island was wild and woolly!”

okrasinski said

Her family lived in the woods, and that is where she roamed every day as a child. “we had pheasants marching across our back yard, baltimore orioles nesting way up in the trees every summer, and a colony of weasels lived in the yard of a neighbor,” she recalled.

“I went to college on staten island and then moved to new york city,” okrasinski continued. “after two years I packed my bags, and much to my parents’ horror, took off to greece where I stayed for two years.”

Okrasinski then met her husband and they took off for chicago. “after a three-year stint there, we headed to nebraska so he could teach at the university of nebraska in lincoln,” she said.American hemerocallis “after five years there, we moved to kingsport and joined the eastman family.”

Around that time, her son started school, and okrasinski got interested in gardening. Not long after she got her first digital camera. “that kick started a love I have always had for the natural world,” she said. “I was gob-smacked when I realized I could blow up my photos and see things I had missed with my naked eye. From that moment on, nothing that flew, crawled or hopped had any privacy anymore.”

“I started getting interested in playing outside — I mean gardening — when I had more free time when my son got a bit older,” okrasinski said. “I love being outside, and playing in the dirt was a bonus.”

digital camera

“you are not only getting the immediate feeling of accomplishment when you finish a project, but you also have the future beauty of the garden as it changes and grows to look forward to,” she said. “I think it is one of the best anti-depressants in the world.”

“when I first started, I was all about beautiful blooms and plants,” she said. “I still love these things, but now I am also all about creating an inviting environment for wildlife. I don’t use any chemicals in my garden. I now have lots of shrubs that bear berries for the birds, herbs and flowers for butterflies and nectar-producing plants for hummingbirds.”

In addition, she has peppered her yard with lots of different bird houses.American hemerocallis she noted that a design known as the “gilbertson house” seems to be the most popular with a lot of her yard birds.

Her favorite nature activities are just being outside and watching. “I do also like to walk in our many lovely local parks,” she said. “the kingsport greenbelt is wonderful, and the wildflowers, as well as the wildlife, are easy to find there. I also like walking duck island in warrior’s path state park.”

“when I started gardening back in 2004, I started using a computer and joined some garden forums,” she said. “that led me to want a digital camera so I could post photos on line. I was totally blown away by the difference in the quality of digital over my old canon sureshot.”

okrasinski said

Her first digital camera was a nikon D60. “I used that until the shutter stopped working, and then bought a nikon D90, which is what I am still using,” okrasinski said.

Gardens also offer seasonal opportunities for her to extend her interest in both nature observation and photography. “when the gardens start to droop at the end of summer, that is the best time for watching butterflies,” okrasinski said. “I like to keep a supply of milkweed and butterfly weed available for the monarchs.”

“my love of nature and wildlife is something I have always had,” okrasinski said. “I spent my childhood roaming through the woods while my schoolmates were riding bikes and playing hopscotch.Okrasinski said I remember vividly walking around a pond and seeing a family of pileated woodpeckers peeking out from a dead tree cavity while their mom or dad — I couldn’t tell which at the time — was clinging nearby.

“it was around this time that I decided to start a collection of old nests and feathers. While my parents didn’t throw these out until I had left home, I do remember my mother being super grossed out that bugs would crawl out of the nests in the house.”

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the gorgeously diverse flowers known as daylilies provided a boost to her renewed passion for the natural world.

“even seeing the same garden on different days is interesting as you see the plants change and come into their peak,” okrasinski said as she waits for another daylily blooming season to arrive.American hemerocallis society

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