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The Country Estate’s Matthew Stafford (left) and Jonathan McDaniel stand next to the Welcome Station/Information Kiosk that tells the history of the gardens and has the official American Daylily Society sign as well as general information about daylilies.

The Country Estate is Williamson’s ‘best kept secret’

The Country Estate in Williamson has recently earned national and international recognition with their special gardens that include more than 1,200 registered daylily cultivars and thousands of other plants. 

The Country Estate in Williamson is open to visitors by appointment and includes beautifully manicured gardens – the Butterfly Garden, the Woodland Garden, the Secret Garden, the Rock Garden and 31 daylily beds. 

The Country Estate recently became one of only 250 officially designated Daylily Display and Historical Gardens in the world with the other nearest such garden located 52 miles, north of Atlanta.

Jonathan McDaniel and Matthew Stafford moved to Williamson 10 years ago on July 31 and the current Country Estate property had no grass, trees or landscaping but over the years it has been transformed to include beautiful gardens. The garden has daylilies that can only be seen in Williamson’s ‘best kept secret’ as the two gardeners cross hybridize daylilies. Jonathan and Matthew will unveil several registered daylilies as introductions in 2023.

“We love daylilies because they are the perfect perennial. They’re beautiful, they multiply quickly and they are tough,” said Jonathan. “We cross hybridize them by taking pollen from one and placing it on another. It takes an hour for the pollen to absorb and it takes over a month to develop a seed pod.  It is a two-year process to see what the flower variation looks like.  There is an additional three year evaluation period. After the observation period, the best seedling is selected for registration. From start to finish, a typical daylily seedling takes 5+ years to reach its full potential to be considered for registration. Once the seed pods are developed, they are hand harvested and placed in the refrigerator for one to two months. Then they are planted in plug liners and grown for up to three months at which time they are upsized into gallon pots. The seedlings are then lined out in seedling beds where measurements are taken of the scape – how tall the flower is – as well as how wide the blooms are and other observations.”

The Country Estate’s official listing on the American Daylily Society website at daylilies.org/display-garden/the-country-estate-williamson/ describes the gardens as follows. Nestled in a quaint city which boasts a population of 681, The Country Estate-Williamson is a nature lover’s paradise. The 1.75 acre property features over 1200 cultivars representing many different forms. During the peak blooms season, which typically occurs the first week in June, owners Jonathan McDaniel and Matthew Stafford welcome visitors to meander through the well manicured grounds. Visitors are encouraged to rest and enjoy the beauty at any of the 15 unique seating areas scattered throughout the property. Much more than daylilies, the property also features woodland gardens, rock gardens, secret gardens and more. Personal garden owner favorites are the “Vampire Bed,” as well as those daylilies having “Country, Prairie and Pumpkin” in the cultivar’s name. Visitors will find this garden is Williamson’s ‘best kept secret.’”

Historical Daylilies are defined by the American Daylily Society as being 30 years or older from current date.  At The Country Estate gardens the 135+ Historical Daylilies all have their own special black markers which includes the name, hybridizer name and date it was introduced. This allows visitors to easily distinguish between a historical daylily and and a non historical daylily. 

The gardens bloom with different varieties of flowers throughout all seasons of the year.  

“In all of our gardens, we do succession planting so that all year we will have something blooming. We have a monarch friendly garden and are certified and registered by Monarch Watch as an official Monarch Waystation.  In total, the gardens have more than 300 varieties of hostas, azaleas, rhododendron, camellias, gardenias, ferns, hydrangeas and more. We will soon be adding a nine-foot tall water feature with a fire place mantle appearance and a trough that will provide the Woodland garden with a waterfall ambiance,” said Matthew. 

There’s never a fee for anyone to walk through, but visitors need to make an appointment. The peak bloom season for daylilies are the first weeks of June but flowers bloom throughout the year and some daylilies bloom until October. To see the garden, set up an appointment with the owners.

“Fifty years ago, my family helped start the largest daylily farm in East Tennessee,” said Matthew. “We both love daylilies, they are in our blood.”

To find out more, go to facebook.com/The
CountryEstateWilliamson/ or contact Matthew Stafford and Jonathan at 706-333-3563 or email mattriver7@yahoo.com. 

The Country Estate Williamson hosted the newly formed South Atlanta Daylily Society club meeting on Friday, June 24. Officers were elected, membership structure was decided upon and meetings will be held every third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. at The County Estate. Anyone interested in joining is welcome to attend. 

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