"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin..." Matt. 6:28-29. My mother taught me this bible verse about lilies. Hemerocallis, the daylily, were my mother's absolute, one hundred percent passion in life. She was a very well known horticulturist in the Chester County area and at the peak of her passion she owned 350 different cultivars (varieties) of hybrid daylilies which she labeled and dutifully kept immaculate records of their habits. She grew, tended to, and lovingly obsessed over these magnificent flowers all while teaching others about her passion for horticulture. This passion ran through her blood since her mother, also named Martha, grew and collected many cultivars of orchids. These stunning flowers grew in their back yard jungle of Panama. Literally, it was a jungle. They did have a backyard with some grass but then the jungle started. Iguanas, black panthers, monkeys, land crabs, boas, poisonous snakes and tropical birds were the norm for their backyard entertainment. My grandmother would gather orchids in the wild jungle and then cultivate them and sell them to local florists. I am told that somewhere else along the line another one of her relatives owned and operated a very successful floriculture business. No wonder I am so obsessed with plants; it runs in my blood.
The magnitude of Mom's love for these hardy plants never fully hit me until I stumbled across a small journal that my mother was keeping. When I say small, I mean there were only 4 entries. These are painfully powerful entries to read because she is writing them just prior to her second and more serious operation for cancer that had metastasized to her brain. She really does not think that she will survive this operation, although she never told us this, and she knows if she does survive it, she will be altered......forever. (She's always so right about such things. How does she do that?). One of the main themes throughout these short entries is concern for her daylily collection. What is most touching is the fact that she knew my horticulture interest was growing and so she gave me the honor of being in charge of what to do with these lilies. Her main request was to make sure that her dear gardening friends each acquire some of the prized bloomers. I really did not have a full appreciation for her lilies plus she had sooooooo many. Mom knew, even before this new diagnosis that something was not right and so she had already started digging up and giving to me some of her collection. Stupidly, I just did not know that she was growing something else; something unwanted. Brain cancer. Now I know why she kept thrusting these plants at me every time I came over to visit. I would say, "Mom! What are you doing? I really don't have room for these! Why are you getting rid of them?" I was not really ready for this in my own novice garden but I put them in a holding bed and slowly incorporated them into my landscape. Now, almost 20 years later, I walk out each morning in my pajamas with my cup of tea and my dog by my side to inspect what is blooming and make mental notes of my own garden. I am usually moved to tears when I gaze at these magnificent flowers. (What is wrong with me? I am always crying or getting choked up over stuff like this. It's just a flower for heaven's sake!) Not just any flower; these are my Mom's flowers. I know, I know, it's incredibly sappy and maybe even corny but I can't help it. Thanks Mom.