Monday, September 19, 2011

Scribblings from Maine: Daylilies

When we bought our cabin, one of the "things" we inherited from the previous owners was mature landscaping: hostas, shrub roses, peonies, and daylilies (genus Hemerocallis). A lovely bed of lemon-colored daylilies graced the flower bed by the front door. They were brilliant in the afternoon sunlight.

There's something special about daylilies -- each bloom's lifetime of just one day literally ephemeral. I take time to look at a daylily bloom, to notice how its color changes with the light at different times of the day. By nightfall, that same bloom will have withered, a fleeting state of grace.

Sadly, my daylilies did not survive our recent construction project. I saw nary a bloom this summer, and I missed them.

All was not quite lost, however. I'd noticed a newspaper ad for daylilies for sale the summer before, and now I noticed a small sign at the top of my road and in front of a farmhouse where a Mennonite family had moved in two years ago. Perhaps I should stop in to look around.

But I have a thing about driving down someone's driveway for commercial purposes. It seems so intrusive. What if it's not a convenient time? What if they're closed, and someone is forced to come outside to tell you so? What if I interrupt a heated argument? What if they're in the bathroom? (All of them, Ellen? Come on.)

One afternoon, I somehow overcame all these (ridiculous) misgivings, and the girls and I turned down the drive. The sign read OPEN. That seemed promising. When we parked the car, a little girl, dressed Plainly in a long calico dress, white cap, and bare feet, opened the screen door and obligingly asked, "Are you here for the daylilies?"

Yes, indeed, we were.

She led us back behind the house, past the vegetable garden, the chickens, and a pen of little goats, to a field full of daylilies. Our arrival must have started something; moments later three more customers arrived, prompting the lady of the house and several other daughters to join us in the daylily field.

It was a gorgeous afternoon, sunshine in a cerulean sky. We meandered around the garden, following the straw-covered paths between each row. Some flowers were still blooming and others were finished; but the family showed us a small photo album of all their offerings, so we could see each variety in all its glory.

On my price list, I marked each one that interested us, the girls calling out names of varieties that caught their eye. We narrowed down our selections. A few I vetoed due to their price. Miss Priss, especially, has expensive tastes. Finally, the girls each chose one variety, and then went off with the two youngest daughters of the house to chase Bandy chicks and pet the baby goats.

Since I'm the mama, I allowed myself to choose two varieties. It's one of the perks of being the mama. Right?

Our selections were carefully and generously dug up and bagged. Once we got back to the cabin, I planted them quickly just to get them in the ground. They are not where I want them to live permanently, but I'll make adjustments next summer.

And I hope they thrive. I hope that, years from now, the girls and I will admire them and say to each other, "Remember the day we bought these? Remember how nervous Mama was just to drive down the driveway?"


  1. Those are stunning! And the story behind them is the very best thing about them. Also, yes being able to pick two is definitely the prerogative of the mama! (Thanks for the clarification of teenage girls and coffee, by the way.)

  2. I do disagree that nature study is not your forte. Even if you only know about a bunch of flowers, having this love and passion for some of them is what CM talked about. Your love inspires and it's simply a joy!

    Thanks for the breathtaking pictures, and for the story you shared.


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