When I ambled up the the driveway hill earlier today, Moon the dog at my heels, you could rightly say I was on a Biblical mission—at least I was heeding that directive from Luke to "Consider the lilies…"
The lilies in question were several dozen orange day-lilies, topping three-foot high stalks. They grow in a bathtub-sized clump about a third of the way down the slope from the road, and have been blooming profusely for the past ten days. Mine always begin their blooming cycle somewhat later than similar lily patches belonging to my neighbors. Why this is so remains a mystery—though perhaps it is due to something in the lilies themselves, a slight variation of their individual strain, or possibly one of several micro-climate aspects such as shade patterns, soil composition, or even an effect caused by the nearby river.
Day lilies are perennials. These particular wild examples are Hemerocallis fulva, or Tawny Day Lily, originally natives of Asia, and introduced to North America in the 17th Century by early European settlers. Orange day lilies have naturalized well and wild patches are especially common hereabouts.
The lily's blooms are large, 3-4 inches across. Each flower consists of three petals and three sepals (collectively called tepals) quite similar in appearance. The flower's throat is yellow, surrounded by a banding of red, which gives way to shades of orange. The bloom's center sports six long stamens and single, even longer, style. As their name implies, each individual flower lasts only a day—though the panicle at the end of the stalk holds several waiting blooms. The long, sword-like green leaves arise from "fans" at ground level, forming a thick, graceful clump.
…and after the showers, the pollen has washed off
and the anthers are dark and soggy.
Sometimes these orange lilies produce rows of black seeds in their seed capsules, but the seeds are infertile. The plant spreads through roots and rhizomes. They are hardy, and easily divided and replanted—which is how they became so widespread. It's also why you find them growing around old home sites, often being the only remaining sign that a house once stood nearby. The old folks regularly planted these orange lilies around their homes, barns, and similar outbuilding—sometimes to act as natural screening. That's why you occasionally still hear someone refer to them as Wash-House Lily or Out-House Lily. I've also heard them called Ditch Lily and RailroadLily, since they were regularly planted thereabouts, as well.
I don't much like such names…they seem too coarse, too unappreciative of such beauty; disrespectful. Orange day lilies deserve better.
Alas, these ubiquitous and common orange day lilies have currently fallen out of favor, and are nowadays regarded as old fashioned for modern gardens. But not here—not in my yard and eyes and heart. I've considered the lovely lilies…and remain delighted by what I saw.