Windham Life and Times – July 16, 2015

A Tribute to the “Common” Day Lily


Well, they’re here again, and I really can’t go another year without giving a big shout out to the magnificent orange glow that appears in July and always makes me smile, even on the busiest of summer days. You can spot them virtually everywhere; blooms held high, along the roads, beside stone walls, reaching out along the lake shore or in front of a great old antique home. These aren’t the stuck up high-breds with there fantastic pallets, ruffled edges and giant blossoms. No these are the dependable, sturdy, gritty, ancient, and beloved Tawny Day lily (H.fulva).

Day-lilies arrived in Europe from China, Japan, Korea and Eastern Siberia, during the 16th century, and by the 17th century had crossed the Atlantic to North America. It is also supposed that America sea-captains involved with the Asian trade brought them home with them. Hemerocallis is Greek and roughly translates at “beautiful for a day. “Crude homesteads being carved out of the forests in the America were beautified by transplants from the Old Country and Asia. They were the carefree choice of pioneers who had no time to spend fussing with ornamentals. The appeal of the daylily with its vigor and rock hardiness, along with its ease in propagating, made it the perfect perennial. The plant also multiplies well and is seldom bothered by insects or disease and spread into large clumps.” Best of all, you can dig some out of the clump and they easily grow in their new locations. They are without question the “easy” of the flower world but just because their easy, doesn’t mean they’re not beautiful.


Of the dozen plus Hemerocallis wild species, two were definite favorites: the Tawny Daylily (H.fulva) and the Lemon Day lily (H.lilasphodelus). Both were treasured possessions at the turn of this century. Many escaped from abandoned homesteads and old cemeteries, naturalizing themselves with ease and are seen by some as weeds or an “invasive” threat. They grow in both full sun and in shaded areas happily opening in the morning, each blossom lasting for a day.

The writer of the “River Bliss” blog captures their nature, “Daylilies take full advantage of their day in the sun by remaining in bloom for the duration, whereas delicate chicory flowers close around mid-day when the sun is most intense. I stopped in my tracks to listen to the advice the day-blooming flowers offered about making the most of a brief existence. They said:

Quick! Dry your eyes!
There’s so much living to do.
Get to it!
The day is young,
and the day is short.

Wake up and engage it.
Don’t waste a moment
Wallowing in longing or regret.
You have this one day to work with
the material of Here and Now
So make the most of it.

“How interesting that the Chinese name for the daylily, xuan-cao, can be translated as “forget-worry herb” or “the plant of forgetfulness” because it was believed to alleviate worries by causing one to forget. When I stopped to connect with the essence of the day-lilies, I forgot mine!”


So join me for the next few days and enjoy the humble yet noble Tawny Day-lilies, as they freely bloom for your sole enjoyment. Each bloom, shining brightly in crimson orange, for just one day. Day-lilies are also a reminder that it is approaching mid-summer and that its time to enjoy what’s left of New England’s fleeting warmth while it lasts.


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