My penchant for day lilies is not hard to fathom, as they were one of Mama’s favorite flowers – she of the very green thumb – and we never moved anywhere that she did not, as one of her first orders of business, plant a bed of them somewhere around the house. As I was thinking about this today, it occurred to me that the longest we ever lived in any house in those days was seven years, and as someone who has now been crafting this beach garden for over twenty years – and still trying to get it right – I can only imagine how frustrating it must have been for her to have to leave her own gardens, time after time, before they were ever able to mature. But day lilies, at least, gave her a sense of continuity from yard to yard and garden to garden.
But then, we all – we gardeners – have our trials and tribulations. Mama, gratefully, never had her garden completely awash in the Atlantic Ocean, as we did only three years ago, when Superstorm Sandy lived up to the name, nor lived the gardening lessons such an event would have inevitably brought. What we learned, for example, was that sequoia and magnolia trees – no matter how mature or healthy – will respond with a sad and sudden demise, that holly trees will completely lose their leaves and appear to be dead, but bounce right back to be healthier than ever, and that many ornamentals – day lilies included – will present a unique set of responses to such an unwelcome, briny bath.
So it is with particular delight and utterly sincere gratitude for nature’s resilience that we have witnessed, this summer, a resurgence of these astonishing, ephemeral flowers the likes of which we could hardly have imagined based upon their behavior over the last two summers.
In the first summer after the Halloween inundation, most of the day lilies planted in the ground were simply dead, but I was fortunate to have a few here and there in planters that were up on decks and had been held above flood level (which came within inches of our floors, but, by grace, never made it inside the house), others were in pots on the ground – and therefore flooded, only less so – and these showed promise of rebirth, and, finally, there were a few straggly others on the edges of the flood (near the high point of the property) that had, frankly, languished from inattention over the years – being, as day lilies are, almost completely self-sustaining, but were, at least, still alive. Together, these were enough to help me replant where their preceding kin had once stood, with the hope that they would eventually thrive.
And, because most of these did flower that season – even some that had been lightly flooded – we did have hope that where foliage remained, flowers would follow.
But then, in the second summer, the outlook changed. Though we had lots and lots of healthy stands of day lily blades, in almost every case where the day lily in question had
felt the touch of even the least bit of salt water, there were NO flowers. None. Healthy green bunches grew larger and happier throughout the season, but the flowers simply didn’t appear. I really thought, with such a diminution of production, that we were witnessing nothing less than their slow death, and that the foliage would most likely give up the ghost soon enough, as well.
Well, friends and angels, I could not have been more wrong. All I can figure, looking back, is that it takes at least two years for a day lily flower to develop (an interesting point considering that they bloom for only one day – one day!). To quote the Psalmist, “In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.” (Psl. 90:6). It would seem that it even requires time for God – Who, according to his Son, dresses the lilies of the field even more beautifully than the glorious Solomon – to make such stunning creations; for all the sumptuous color and subtle complexity of these flowers to be born.
And, so, without more words, I present the day lilies of 2015 as they have been reborn at Cedar House. An astonishing resurgence that can only make me wonder just how much my angels have had a hand in bringing it about. They say a snapshot can only capture a moment in time, but with day lilies, a moment in time is all there is. I hope you enjoy these snapshots of creation’s own “installation art.” Each of these flowers took two full years to make, yet each was gone by twilight on the day it opened. What better use of a camera could there be?
Thanks to my angels for making this all possible, and love to all!
© 2015 George Thomas Wilson. All rights reserved.