My daylily hobby

An inherited avocation

The last daily bloom faded away one day this past week ending another season of daylily delight. Growing the flower technically called hemerocallis is a pastime I inherited from my grandmother, Jessie Isaman. Watch out! Growing daylilies is catching; my daughter has the bug as well.

How it started

I started growing daylilies while at my first church in Bentley Creek, PA.   When I visited my parents, I would dig up a shovelful from the huge clumps on the farm and transport them to my parsonage in northern Pennsylvania. When I moved from there I took a shovelful from each clump and threw the daylilies in a crate in the back of the moving truck. In spite of being packed away in the closed up semi-body for a month, every plant lived.   They are tough. I had the start for a new daylily garden at my second parsonage in Kirkville, New York.

How it grew

While in Kirkville, I discovered a daylily farm at Grace Gardens on Angus Road just off Route 14 south of Geneva, NY.    Over the years that I lived in Kirkville I purchased many more daylily varieties and planted them around the property until I had more than 30 varieties.   A few more came from Roots and Rhizomes by mail. When I moved to my third parsonage in West Granby Connecticut, my plan was to take a shovelful from each clump and pack them in the truck again. But this time, I was using a moving company and they would not do that.   So, I clipped a double fan or so from each clump that I had dug and gave the rest away.    I filled my car trunk and brought them with me.   Some ended up at my daughter’s house.   Most of them form the nucleus for my collection here.

My latest additions

This summer, I was meandering home from an Adirondack vacation when I drove by Jim’s daylily farm in Ticonderoga, New York.   He has the healthiest daylilies I’ve ever seen and lots of them.   Though his lot space is limited, every square foot was growing daylilies.   I brought the car to a screeching halt, turned around and somehow found room for about six new varieties on top of all our camping goods. My wife was not so happy about some dirt that filtered down through.   But then I’m not noted for keeping my car pristine. I’d rather carry some things that I need and clean up later.  Anyway, with these new additions, I now have about 40 varieties of daylilies here at West Granby parsonage.   Fortunately, there’s lots of room.   Of course, the beds are young, so the displays are just getting started. Here are a few pictures from this summer.



Daylily Summer Joys

Summer Joy

One of the true joys of summer for me is growing daylilies.   They don’t require a lot of care and they reward me with many blooms, each one lasting only one day.   When I spoke about that detail in my sermon one Sunday, I was surprised how few people realized it.   I guess we are so used to mums and dahlias, orchids and even African violets whose flowers last for a week or even weeks that the idea of a flower lasting only one day seems strange.   But as I mentioned that Sunday, the fact that the bouquet in my garden is different every day gives it an invigorating charm.  I go out looking for the new blossoms every day that I can.   The light patterns, the dew on the blossoms, critters hiding or not all add to the interest.

Collecting too

I have developed a little of a collectors mentality about it too with over 30 varieties now.   I have some daylilies just because they are odd—one blooms at night, another that I just planted is unusually tall, another is a double named Yellow Submarine.   Some are fragrant.   Several are spider daylilies, which means they have narrow petals rather than usual fuller round ones.   Some varieties have ruffled edges.  Colors range from a very dark maroon – inherited from Grandma Isaman–to a white one I bought called Nanuq.   I seem to prefer the orange and gold hues, though I have some striking red and yellow mixes now that will almost take your breath away.   Except for the picture of me visiting Grace Gardens, all the daylilies in the slides are from my garden.

Grandma got me started

When I was a boy, my Grandma, Jessie Isaman would pay us boys for helping her pull the quack grass from her large flower garden.   Her garden featured eight or ten different dayliles among the many other perennials and I grew to love their annual display.  Grandma died the same year I became a pastor, and my Mom encouraged me to take a small division from most of her daylilies with me when I moved to my first parsonage in Bentley Creek, PA.   I built a tiered daylily garden in the back and the daylily clumps grew well.   When I moved to Kirkville, I took part of each clump, threw them in a crate and stuffed it in the tractor trailer with my household goods.  Later that summer I unpacked the crate, planted the brown clumps and every one grew.  So I have most of my Grandma’s daylilies as the beginning of my collection.   One of them, Frans Hall, is still sold today.  Another is a fragrant yellow that I think is as fragrant as any newer cultivar I have.


Grace Gardens — A beautiful spot

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You could call it the mother lode of daylilies, but I just cannot resist the sheer beauty of a hillside filled with a variety of hemerocallis in bloom.  That is what you see at Grace Gardens.  (Hemerocallis  is the formal scientific name for a daylily.)   I try to visit at least once each summer and I have already been there twice this year.  Each time I go I end up adding one or two more of these elegant flowers to my own collection.   Tom and Kathy Rood invent new daylily varieties too.   Kathy has one named after her now that has been featured in a magazine because it is very fragrant.  I knelt down to smell its pleasant fragrance on this trip.    I recommend visiting just to enjoy the beauty.    But be prepared to get snared by the charm of hemerocallis too.   Open house is this Saturday.

Day Lily Season

One of the great joys of summer for me is daylily season.    Hemerocallis is one of my very favorite summer flowers.   It is hardy, easy to grow, makes a good display and has few enemies.  It transplants well, divides well, and is generally hard to kill, although the voles have been trying.  When I arrived here, there was only one kind, the old-fashioned one, growing here.   Now I have collected about three dozen varieties and every year I try to add a few more.   Some I get from friends, some I buy in stores or from specialty catalogs and I have purchased several at Grace Gardens (, a daylily garden near Geneva that I love to visit.   In recent years, I have tried to be better at recording the names, but with the way CNY winters beat up my name plates, I unfortunately have lost names regularly.  Several of my lilies I inherited from my Grandmother Isaman, including one called Frans Hall that is still sold in catalogs today.

The name, daylily, comes from the fact that each bloom lasts only one day.   (However, I have collected one strange but very fragrant variety that blooms each evening and closes in the morning).   Many people are not aware that some strains are fragrant.   In a way, it is sad each evening as beautiful displays come to an end with the setting sun.  Yet in another sense, I always think about how every morning I have a brand new garden display!   It is one small way God’s mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3: 22,23 ESV).   The old blossoms of the night before were faded in the sun or beaten up by rain, but the new ones of the morning are perfect.  So each morning all summer during day lily season, I go out to see what has opened for today.    I have observed unusual things on those morning walks too.  One morning, I found a green tree frog backed down into a large daylily blossom.   If I extend the spiritual analogy, as a Christian, I can look forward each morning to how God’s grace will make this day a fresh experience walking with my Savior.

I’m including a few pictures from this year’s gardens.    You may notice that I tend toward the jungle look in gardens as opposed to the neatly-separated-plants look.  I like the happy coincidences that happen as plants overlap.  I’d rather they fill in the spaces, and then I don’t have to.   If it’s weeds – well, I will eventually get to them…

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