Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Lowly Ditch Lily

You know this plant; it's everywhere. In backyard gardens and along roadsides. It's Hemerocallis fulva, also known as Orange Lily, Ditch Lily, Outhouse Lily (I'd love to know the backstory on that nickname), and less offensive - Tawny Daylily.

My mom was an incredible vegetable gardener, and grew some perennials too, but I remember my next door neighbor (hi, Glenn!) having a huge bed of Ditch Lilies that grew through the chain link fence that seperated our yards. I used to take ownership of any of the flowers that bloomed on my side of the fence. They were so captivating and exotic looking compared to the dandelion and clover flowers I routinely collected from the lawn. I wonder if most people have a memory of this ubiquitous plant.

Last week a fellow plant geek friend of mine told me she was looking for a few of these to transplant into her yard. I was kind of surprised that someone with extensive plant knowledge choose this plant over other, more unique ones. But she shared that she had memories of growing orange lilies when her three grown boys were just babies, and that triggered my own memories of the plant - hot, sunny summer afternoons spent daydreaming and making bouquets for my mom. And I immediately understood. I brought her about 15 of the plants from my own back garden. And in doing so, perpetuated a pass-along practice that has been going on in our country since as early as 1793.

Many think Hemerocallis fulva is native, but it was actually brought here from Europe, and from China before that. It does not reseed, so according to this very interesting article, "it's widespread distribution is the handiwork of gardeners." So, the next time you see these lilies growing in an unusual place, you'll know that someone intentionally planted them there!

What are your experiences with Hemerocallis fulva?

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