Robert Zimmer is a garden and outdoors writer for The Post-Crescent in Appleton. Gardening mainly with hostas, lilies and daylilies, he has transformed his small city lot into a beautiful, lawn-free landscape.

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Summer School for Teacher
by Rob Zimmer    

Stands of mature, pink trumpet lilies tower over the display gardens during July. Bremer’s interest in the Lilium genus added vertical flare to his long-time passion for daylilies and peonies.  He now grows well over 100 different varieties of lilies, along with thousands of daylilies.

Throughout much of the year, Nate Bremer teaches science at Madison Middle School in Appleton. When school lets out each June, Bremer’s life kicks into high gear. That’s because Bremer owns Solaris Farms, a 20-acre perennial lover’s paradise located just north of Reedsville in northeast Wisconsin.

 One of Bremer’s own creations, this fiery hybrid daylily blazes in the morning sunshine. Only the best and brightest of thousands of seedlings grown annually make the cut and pass into Bremer’s trial beds.  

A sea of colorful daylilies, along with over 100 varieties of lilies and hundreds of peonies fill Bremer’s garden beds with color from spring until late summer.

Specializing in the hybridization and display of the latest, modern daylily (Hemerocallis) cultivars for Northern gardeners, Bremer’s display gardens are unique in that visitors walk among acres and acres of plantings packed with colorful daylilies.

Over the past several years, Bremer has expanded his hybridizing program and plant interests to peony offerings, including fern-leaf, herbaceous and tree types, as well as a large selection of the newest varieties of true lilies (Lilium) and  and winter-blooming hellebores (Helleborus).

Many backyard gardeners are not familiar with the modern daylily hybrids since most varieties sold at garden centers are 30- to 40-year-old cultivars. Much has changed in the world of daylily hybridization over just the past decade, and Bremer’s garden is one of the few locations where one can get a glimpse into the fascinating creations. Solaris Farms is recognized as an official display garden of the American Hemerocallis Society.

The modern daylily is a mighty plant, with flowering stalks, called scapes, that can be an inch thick and withstand any of Mother Nature’s winds. Foliage is thick and lush, not strappy and withery like old fashioned daylilies we may be used  to seeing. The flowers themselves are tremendous in size and substance, often reaching 7 to 10 inches across and having a firm, waxy texture. The colors span the rainbow.

Focusing on daylily cultivars that grow well in Wisconsin was Bremer’s primary focus. As a top-name hybridizer, he was aware that many beautiful daylilies produced in the South were not hardy in our climate. Nonetheless, they are sold regularly at area garden centers and discount stores and consumers are frequently disappointed when the plant doesn’t return the following year.

“My father gifted me four daylilies from his garden in 1987,” Bremer says. The gift was the genesis of his interest in daylily hybridization. “They were not expensive cultivars, but also were not the typical plants you see at a local garden center. I believe they were ‘Wild One’, ‘Treasure Room’, ‘Barbara Mitchell’ and ‘Spirit of Paris’.” Bremer’s fascination grew and grew, and after a few years he began to experiment with hybridizing his own plants.

His secret to growing the best plants possible? Do absolutely nothing! As part of his hybridization program, Bremer tests plant hardiness and reliability in our Northern climate by simply letting them grow naturally in the garden beds and fields. No mulching, no special fertilizers only a good regular watering and constant weeding.

Purple petunias and clematis flow over an old cement mixer, used with beautiful results as an anchor piece in one of Bremer’s display beds.

Along with perennials, lilies and assorted specimen trees and shrubs, the billowy blooms of hydrangeas fill the gardens from spring through fall.

Garden art, including antique farm outbuildings, corn cribs and other unique architectural pieces, provide the hardscaping in Bremer’s award-winning display beds. Featuring daylilies, as well as many unusual and unique trees, shrubs and perennials, the gardens take visitors several hours to fully enjoy.

A cloud of peonies blooms against the early summer sky. Rows and rows of peonies, many of his own creation, decorate Bremer’s gardens in early summer. Peonies of all types, fern-leaf, herbaceous and tree, have quickly become a favorite plant of Bremer’s for hybridization. Bremer completes peony grafting himself, usually in early September, for immediate planting.

Summer means phlox and lots of it. The display gardens along the main barn are filled with masses of colorful, sweet-scented phlox. The summer gardens also include roses, hollyhocks, lilies, milkweeds, coneflowers and many unique and rare clematis.

From Wisconsin Gardening Volume II Issue I. Photos by Rob Zimmer.


Posted: 02/26/14   RSS | Print


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