Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Remembering gary Schaben: A Tribute from ADS Region One


gary Schaben, award-winning daylily hybridizer and American Daylily Society Region One Publicity Director (RPD) from 2000-2004, passed away peacefully this morning (9/15/2020) while watching the sunrise surrounded by his family.

The original version of this updated article (with title selected by gary) was first published on pages 66-72 in the Spring 2007 issue of The Daylily Journal. Here is the updated version, in tribute to our friend.

About gary Schaben: "I Was Born in a Log Cabin that I Helped My Father Build"
Kathleen M. Lamb and Mary Baker

gary told us he always envisioned that an article written about him would begin with that sentence. It’s the least we can do for gary, who inspires us and countless others to hybridize, including his talented nephew John Becker, creator of the gorgeous Hemerocallis ‘Tie Dyed Moon’ (Becker/Schaben, tet, 2003).

gary Schaben (pic courtesy of Chad Schaben)

gary’s love of gardening began in his home town of La Crosse in central Kansas, which gary describes as a dry and dusty prairie. The lone shady oasis belonged to a neighbor couple who had emigrated from Germany along with their iris collection. While an eight-year-old boy, gary would watch John, a cobbler, work in his shed on leather shoes and harnesses. When John tired of gary, he told gary about the bear hiding in the basement. gary would quickly retreat to the adjacent house, where Pauline welcomed him with freshly baked cookies they enjoyed in her beautiful garden, where it always felt cool on the hottest of days.

gary and Rita Schaben and family (pic courtesy of Chad Schaben)

After moving to Minnesota, gary’s sister-in-law gave him some Hemerocallis fulva to plant in a wet area of the garden. gary liked its vigor and hardiness and then discovered that daylilies also came in yellow. In 1989, gary’s mother-in-law told him that the gentleman from whom she rented pasture land, Marion Hagerstrom, grew and created daylilies in all sorts of colors. gary frequently visited Marion, and Marion gave him lots of seedlings to play with. Gary quickly became enamored with daylilies; as a result, gardening took on a whole new meaning. In addition to physically working in the dirt and designing artistic beds, he became hooked on creating his own daylilies. Sadly, gary’s first promising seedlings bloomed the summer after Marion passed away.

Personal and Cultivar Awards

gary did quite a bit of hybridizing with daylilies before his involvement began with his local club, the Hemerocallis Society of Minnesota (now known as the Daylily Society of Minnesota or DSM), and the American Hemerocallis Society (also known as the American Daylily Society or ADS). It started when gary learned about a seminar at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum by Norm Baker, who owned and operated a nearby daylily nursery. gary joined DSM and ADS, and he quickly became an active member of both societies.

Kathy Lamb met gary and his wife Rita through DSM, and Mary Baker met them while attending ADS regional events. gary served as ADS Region One Publicity Director, a position he held for five years from 2000-2004 while Mary was regional vice president (now known as regional President or RP) and Kathy was regional newsletter Editor. 

Over the years, gary and Rita generously contributed many daylilies and extensive time to local and regional events. Rita served as ADS Region One Director from 2004-2006. gary and Rita received the ADS Region One Service Award in 2003 for their outstanding service and dedication to our region. 

gary received the Honorable Mention award (HM) for H. ‘Debbie’s Vows’ (tet, 2001), ‘North Wind Dancer’ (dip, 2001), and ‘Remembering Joan’ (tet, 2001) in 2004. gary was awarded an HM for ‘Minnesota Morning’ (tet, 2001) in 2005. In 2007, gary received HMs for ‘Emma’s Song’ (Schaben/Rice, tet, 2003), ‘North Wind Drifter’ (dip, 2001), and ‘’Paha Sapa ‘Thundercloud’ (tet, 2003. gary was awarded HMs for ‘North Wind Billet Doux’ (dip, 2005) and ‘Paha Sapa Dreamcatcher’ (tet, 2005) in 2008. In 2011, gary received HMs for ‘Captain Jack’ (tet, 2007), ‘Hakuna Matata’ (dip, 2007), and ‘North Wind Curly Joe’ (dip, 2006). ‘North Wind Dancer’ went on to receive the Award of Merit (AM) in 2007, the Lambert/Webster Award in 2007, and the Stout Silver Medal in 2011.

'North Wind Dancer' (pic courtesy of Janice Kennedy)

gary's introductions have also earned top ranking in the ADS Region One Popularity Poll, with ‘Debbie’s Vows’ placing first in 2003, and ‘North Wind Dancer’ placing first in 2004 and 2005.
Hybridizing Goals

gary says he is always working on everything and enjoys exploiting unexpected characteristics that occur with various genetic combinations. He looks at daylilies from the bottom up, avoiding “to die for” blooms on plants that fail to thrive. His real passion is for vigorous, hardy cultivars with great plant habit, excellent branching, healthy foliage, and overall plant proportion and balance. If all that is in place, he then looks at the blooms, selecting for clear color as well as excellent form and substance.

gary’s favorite hybridizing direction is for complex patterns with fancy faces. His second love is working with spiders and unusual forms, which he admires for their gracefulness. Fancy, full-formed whites also intrigue him, and he works on these a little at a time.

gary never worked toward yellows, but his white program produced some outstanding yellows with large size, excellent form, and substantial green infusion. While visiting gary’s garden, Mary fell in love with ‘Metabelle Beth’ (tet, 2005), which has a Marion Hagerstrom red seedling as a grandparent. ‘Metabelle Beth’, named for gary’s granddaughter, is a pale cream buttermilk polychrome with a pink blush, shocking green throat, heavy substance, perfect form, well-branched scapes, and a bud count of 35 to 42. 

'Metabelle Beth' (pic courtesy of Mary Baker)

Another outstanding cultivar in the yellow family is ‘Lemon Shadows’ (tet, 2006), with 6-inch bright lemon yellow blooms and fringed edges. ‘Our Friend Craig’, named after the late Craig Stahl, is out of ‘Concrete Blonde' X 'Just Another Yellow' and features flowers ranging between 6 and 7 inches with an intensely green infusion. When Mary first noticed that one, Rita asked, “Have a little yellow with your green?” Mary feels her late hybridizing mentor Oscie Whatley would be pleased with the incredible, perfect yellows gary has created in his quest for whites.

Full Formed Near Whites

We love ‘Apostle of Hope’ (tet, 2001), out of ‘Admiral’s Braid’ X ‘Angel’s Smile’, for its many green-throated gold-edged blooms presented beautifully on well-branched scapes. gary says the cornerstone in his white tetraploid hybridizing program is his lovely pale yellow sculpted seedling TOV, out of ‘Just Another Yellow’ and ‘Great White’.

‘Emma’s Song’ (Schaben/Rice, tet, 2003) is one of the most refined edge-no-eye cultivars we have ever seen. Fertile both ways, each graceful cream white flower becomes lavender at the edge with a clear green throat that complements the flower nicely. Mary used ‘Emma’s Song’ in her hybridizing program, and it is the pollen parent of two of her 2013 registrations ‘Megan’s Smile’ and ‘Princess Molly’.  

gary’s outstanding tetraploid seedling T98O-1, registered in 2007 as ‘Pioneer Panache’, is a creamy white polychrome as radiant as a pearl. ‘Pioneer Panache’ grew en masse in Kyle Billadeau’s lovely 2007 ADS National Convention tour garden. ‘Pioneer Panache’ features 6-inch nicely rolled back blooms with tremendous green throats on vigorous plants. gary generously designated that all sales proceeds from ‘Pioneer Panache’, available for sale for the first time during the 2007 ADS National Convention, will go to ADS Region One—yet another demonstration of gary's continual support for our region.

Spiders and Unusual Forms

A significant parent in gary’s diploid spider and unusual forms hybridizing program is his outstanding award-winning cultivar ‘North Wind Dancer’. A beautiful garden plant in its own right, ‘North Wind Dancer’ has produced spectacular seedlings for gary and many other hybridizers. ‘North Wind Dancer’, out of ‘Lola Branham’ and a seedling, is a bud builder that blooms over a long period of time, and it frequently passes this characteristic as well as its gracefulness to its kids.

'North Wind Dancer' (pic courtesy of Phil Greenawalt and Judie Treangen)

We also love ‘North Wind Drifter’ (dip, 2001), a full sibling to ‘North Wind Dancer’ with a different look yet equally dramatic effect. ‘North Wind Drifter’ has ramrod straight 44-inch scapes featuring many beautiful well-spaced 8 1/2-inch bright lavender pink blooms that draw attention from afar.

‘North Wind Billet Doux’, named for Kyle Billadeau, is from (‘Indian Giver’ X ‘North Wind Dancer’). Although its blooms are smaller, gary feels that ‘North Wind Billet Doux’ might be an even better parent than ‘North Wind Dancer’. In gary’s words, ‘North Wind Billet Doux’ would “grow on an ice cube.” It begins blooming earlier and continues blooming longer than ‘North Wind Dancer’ in Mary’s garden. gary describes it as a “gracefully ruffled violet lavender with pale lavender edge and patterned eye of gray, lavender and blue over chartreuse throat and green heart.”

'North Wind Billet Doux' (pic courtesy of Mary Baker)

Other exciting daughters of ‘North Wind Dancer’ (with ‘Susan Weber’ as the pollen parent) include ‘North Wind Curly Joe’ (dip, 2006), a soft clear pastel pink becoming cream and then green in the throat on twisting, curling flowers over 8 inches in size, and its very different sibling ‘North Wind Moe’ (dip, 2006), featuring 7-inch-plus diameter pinched crispate flowers in screaming hot clear pink.

gary’s ‘North Wind Larry’ (dip, 2006), out of (‘Noel Weston’ X ‘Marked by Lydia’), is the third of “The Three Amigos” gary introduced in 2006. ‘North Wind Larry’ features ruffled yellow flowers with delicate beige overlays on multiple branched scapes that present the blooms well.

Complex Patterns on Fancy Faces

gary initially used his greenhouse to get something really dormant with dramatically patterned eyes. Out of (tetra ‘Exotic Echo’ X ’Flameburst’), he produced ‘Surfing on the Styx’, a 4-inch red with a variable smoky black eye pattern that changes with the weather. ‘Surfing on the Styx’ has five- to six-way branching and a high bud count. Its dormancy and hardiness are dominant, and it is incredibly fertile both ways. gary has crossed it with a variety of cultivars, beginning a line of patterned faces on ultra hardy plants.

From gary’s ‘Surfing on the Styx’ line came the exquisite ‘Ciara Marie’ (tet, 2006) as well as a future registration. ‘Ciara Marie’, from (‘Surfing on the Styx’ X ‘Magnificent Rainbow’), is named for the granddaughter of Karen Schock, an ADS Region One friend from North Dakota. ‘Ciara Marie’ produces many heavily diamond dusted violet lavender blooms with a patterned eye, small silver edge, and deep green throat on very well-branched scapes. Flowers are fertile both ways. gary’s future registration out of (‘Surfing on the Styx’ X ‘Tie Dyed Moon’) features large flowers with an amazing eye pattern present on the sepals as well as the petals on vigorous, very dormant plants.

The work of Steve Moldovan inspired gary to cross his award-winning ‘Debbie’s Vows’ with Steve’s 'Mountain Majesty’ to create the beautiful ‘Paha Sapa Thundercloud’, which consistently reblooms in Kathy’s garden. gary feels that ‘Paha Sapa Thundercloud’ is the prettiest bi-tone he grows. ‘Paha Sapa Thundercloud’ is a rich purple with lavender sepals and a lovely, graceful form with an exotic broken eye pattern. It is fertile both ways, hardy, and very vigorous, and is yet another gary says “could grow on an ice cube.” Curt Hanson grows ‘Paha Sapa Thundercloud’ in his garden and feels it is spectacular.

The cross ‘Paha Sapa Thundercloud’ X ‘Gerda Brooker’ produced the elegant ‘Paha Sapa Dream Catcher’ (tet, 2005). The triple-edged blooms, presented on well-branched scapes, tend to dramatically change color depending on weather and soil. Per gary’s web site description, “I have seen this eye so blue it will take your breath away with lavender cream petals, and then I have seen it pink/peach with red violet edging and more of a purple eye; sure wish it would stay blue but that tends to come with cooler temperatures I think, or it could be that it just has an attitude.” Whatever the color, it’s always striking and is fertile both ways.

‘Captain Jack’ (out of ‘Pioneer Panache’ X ‘Julie Newmar’) features an incredible high contrast eye pattern, dramatic edges, and shark’s teeth on a plant that has proven to be winter hardy in gary’s zone 4a garden. Can daylilies get any fancier?

'Captain Jack' (pic courtesy of Mary Baker)

The Schabens’ beautiful Gardens with a Northern Exposure was a featured tour garden during the 2007 ADS National Convention jointly hosted by DSM and ADS Region One, an open garden during the 2013 ADS National Convention hosted by DSM, and a tour garden during regional meetings hosted by DSM.

gary, thank you and Rita for all you have done for our region, for DSM, and the mentoring and inspiration you gave to so many daylily enthusiasts. You will be missed. 


  1. Thank you for sharing this. Your words about him are so generous and warm. What a wonderful witness to my dad’s contributions.

  2. Mary, I am glad you posted this article on the Region 1 Blog. Thank you!

  3. Excellent article and fitting tribute to gary

  4. Excellent article and fitting tribute to gary