Monday, July 10, 2006

Daylilies ("They also serve . . . ")

Why is it that we are so often unappreciative of those among us who are loyal, dependable, and capable--and who ask for no recognition?

"They also serve who only stand and wait," wrote Milton. In the botantical realm, I nominate daylilies for a place in God's kingdom.

The row of daylilies running along the side of the house withstands all sorts of insults: lime leaching from the concrete foundation, water washing down from a misaligned gutter, and weeds encroaching from the lawn and compost pile. If I remember and have the time, the bed gets tossed a few handfuls of a balanced fertilizer in spring and summer. And still it blooms gloriously in July . . .

Yes, the daylilies look lovely en masse, but the individual blossoms deserve their due, too. As well as Stella d'Oro, this bed includes a mix of tetrapoid varieties.

Although this bed was planted soon after we moved into the house, I was only able to look past daylilies' utility a few years ago, when first-half-cousin-once-removed Bill M., SMS, and I saw this stunning spread at a farmer's market in Edwardsville, Illinois.

These spectacular midwestern blooms, arrayed in their long rows, had me reconsider daylilies. Why do we prize the flowers that demand just the right soil conditions, or so much water and no more, or the correct amount of sun . . . or shade . . . or air circulation . . . or staking . . . at the expense of those stalwarts who require a minimum of effort and yield a maximum of beauty?

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