August 10, 1901 - February 29, 1960
by Ray Houston
Hugh Russell presenting daylily bouquet to
Sonja Henie, 3-time Olympic Champion
Hugh Mortimer Russell was born in the Indian Territory, Oklahoma, August 10, 1901, the son of John Taylor Russell and Annis Victoria (Street) Russell. He became well known as a prolific daylily hybridizer and commercial daylily salesman. Russell Gardens near Spring, Texas, was organized in 1927, featuring over 40 acres of daylilies.
Hugh was the recipient of the American Hemerocallis Society's Helen Field Fischer Award in 1957 for distinguished and meritorious service rendered the American Hemerocallis Society (AHS) by a member on the national level. In 1958, he was the recipient of the AHS Bertrand Farr Silver Medal for outstanding results in the field of daylily hybridizing.
AHS's second Stout Silver Medal was awarded to Hugh Russell for his Hemerocallis 'Painted Lady', which is still available commercially. He won the President's Cup in 1958 for H. 'Marsha Russell'.
The following are reprints of articles about Hugh from the AHS archives.
In the passing of Hugh M. Russell, the horticultural world has lost an outstanding pioneer and colorful personality. On February 29, 1960, he lost his long and courageous fight against the rare and incurable disease know as lupus erythematosus.
He was a native of Oklahoma but spent most of his childhood and early adult life in Alabama. During the late 1920's, while in Birmingham, he became interested in Hemerocallis and embarked upon his long and successful career as hybridizer. Upon relocating in Spring, Texas, in 1939, his serious and extensive work began in the development of distinctive varieties that could be grown universally. He foresaw the potential value of the Hemerocallis as an ideal perennial and decided that a life spent in its development and promotion would be most useful and rewarding.
The results of his dedicated work are widely known. He became the world's largest grower and distributor of Hemerocallis and during the past 21 years over 1200 of his hybrids have been named and made available to gardeners far and wide. His Hemerocallis 'Painted Lady', H. 'Mrs Hugh Johnson', 'Athlone', 'Emily Brown', 'Queen of Gonzales', 'Mrs B.F. Bonner', 'Sideshow', 'Skylark', 'Mrs H.M. Russell', 'Helen Hull', 'Marsha Russell', 'Captain Russell', and 'Jake Russell' are perfect examples of tried and true varieties that will live on and on and be widely accepted for great beauty and excellence of performance.
Hugh Russell generously supported worthy projects where the objective was pointed squarely at the development and improvement of the Hemerocallis. He was the first donor member of the American Hemerocallis Society. The Joe House Memorial Fund was established in 1955 as a result of his untiring efforts. For outstanding service to the Society, he was awarded the Helen Field Fischer Award in 1957 and, in 1958, was named the recipient of the Bertrand Farr Award for distinguished work in the field of hybridizing. Under his long list of accomplishments are also listed the winning of the Society's Stout Silver Medal and the President's Cup. Thus, he became the first and only member to win all major awards offered by the American Hemerocallis Society.
The words used by his good friend, Kay Kuehne, express so well the Hugh Russell the Hemerocallis world knew and loved - "flamboyant, pithy, entertaining and enduring." The Hugh Russell few people really knew was a man of kindness, great generosity, and completely loyal to his family and friends.
Hugh M. Russell
By Gay Kuehne, Texas
(Reprinted from The Hemerocallis Journal, 1959, Vol. 13, No. 2 Yearbook, p.10)
When the Awards and Honors System of the American Hemerocallis Society was organized in 1950 along with the Popularity Poll of the 100 best, Mr. Russell made a fine showing with his daylilies, capturing 13 positions on the first poll. There are only 24 varieties that have remained on the Popularity Poll all eight years and six of them are Russell's. To date there have been 900 positions open on the popularity poll and he has 102 of them.
H. M. Russell - 1958
(Reprinted from Daylilies - A Fifty-Year Affair, The Story of a Society and Its Flower, The Golden Anniversary Publication of the American Hemerocallis Society, pp. 78-79, 1995, Frances Gatlin, Editor)
H. M. (Hugh) Russell was the first broadly commercial grower of daylilies. Like the Gilbert Wild Nursery to follow, he distributed specialty daylilies to the general gardener and was the source of many daylily hobbyists' first purchases.
Born in Indian Territory - now Oklahoma - he experienced hunger and deprivation as a child. These hardships fed his determination to provide a better life for his own family. AHS Charter Member D. R. McKeithan was on of those who acquired his first collection from Russell:
Hugh Russell at that time (1941) not only advertised his daylilies in newspapers and flower magazines, but he would load up his truck and travel far and wide huckstering his daylilies to anyone who showed any interest in his truck full of flowers. He always did his huckstering while the flowers were in bloom. He was a master merchandiser and would have succeeded in any venture he attempted.
His chosen venture led him to Spring, Texas, where he became the owner of the single largest planting of daylilies in the world. Hugh Russell, hybridizer, did not give away too many of his trade secrets. His first crosses were Hemerocallis 'Flava' and the difficult H. 'Fulva Rosea'. He later worked toward improved pinks with wider petals. It was his opinion that these would not come from H. 'Fulva' var. 'Rosea' which he considered to be a perpetrator of narrow petals.
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