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Hobby takes root for local flower enthusiast

Keith Schumacher of Farragut knows what it is like to have a hobby go wild. That is how his wife describes his business, Champion Daylilies, where Schumacher spends a majority of his time seven days a week.

“It’s a hobby many people get hooked into,” Schumacher said. “They may buy a five-dollar plant at Wal-Mart the first time and the next thing you know they are spending ninety dollars for a daylily.”

That’s how Schumacher became a member of this flowering club of hobbyists. After a medical illness forced retirement on him several years ago, he began growing daylilies in his garden at home. The flowers took root in his yard and his heart.

“I think I started growing them about ten years ago,” he said. “I only started doing this commercially about five years ago.”

He leased some land in Spartanburg, S.C., and Augusta, Ga., on which to grow his inventory. Eventually the business grew so great that he was servicing customers from here to New Jersey.

Shipping costs and the driving from Farragut to Spartanburg and Augusta forced him to consolidate his business within about 200 hundred miles of Farragut.

“There are a couple of great things about daylilies,” Schumacher said. “You can’t kill them and they multiply rapidly. That’s what got me interested in them in the first place.”

The flowers, he said, generally bloom for about six weeks, take a month off, then bloom again.

Schumacher said the plants are sent as young plants with bare roots generally through the Unites States Postal Service. Having exposed roots, he said, doesn’t harm the plants at all.

“They can go two to three weeks when people send them bare root,” he said.

Schumacher said he wanted to go all out when he started selling daylilies commercially, so he was careful in his selection of daylilies to breed and to sell.

“Hemerocallis is the name of daylilies and there’s a group called the American Hemerocallis Society,” he said. “Each year this group gives out awards for the best daylilies. I would track down the owners of the flowers and get them to send me a couple.”

Thus, Champion Daylilies was born. The name is based on all the award-winning varieties in stock.

He said he spent most of the winter creating a Web site on his business and daylilies.

The site, is in Schumacher’s opinion, “the most extensive daylily site on the Internet.”

“Everything you wanted to know about daylilies is on that site,” he said. “I created it because I figure if somebody is going to grow something, they want to know all about it.”

Currently situated on Kevin Lane, just off U.S. 70 one mile past Dixie Lee Junction, Schumacher said he has almost 30,000 species of daylilies in his inventory.

“My most popular seller is the Ruby Spider,” he said. “It produces about an eight-inch flower with a gold center.”

Cost for the different varieties can run anywhere from $5 to $35, depending on the flower.

Although Schumacher is sole owner and employee of his business, he said he has had a lot of help this summer and on weekends from his grandsons, Josh Halseth, 16, and Jake Halseth, 10.

The spot he leases on Kevin Lane, however, is slated to become a warehouse by its owner.

Within the next month or so, Schumacher said he plans to go from selling daylilies to showcasing them at his home at 341 McFee Road for others to enjoy.

For more information on the flowers, call 865-777-2625.


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