Discovered Daylilies Are A Reminder Of Farming Joys

A farmer spreading grass clippings in the woods was surprised to find an undiscovered patch of daylilies struggling to reach the sunlight.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

On a recent summer afternoon on my northern Wisconsin farm, I was busy raking up grass clippings created from mowing around a handful of apple trees.

Normally I’m able to mow this mini-orchard regularly so that raking isn’t needed. But on this particular occasion, a combination of ultra-hot weather and a busy schedule forced me to neglect the mowing a bit longer than I’d intended.

No matter though—grass clippings are good for many things, including mulch and fertilizer. Once I raked the clippings into piles, I set aside some for future use. Then I loaded the rest into my trusty red wagon to haul away and spread in the woods.

I knew just the place—a secluded spot not far from the old pond, where young pine, ash, and chokecherry trees grow on sloping and uneven ground. I figured I would spread the grass clipping through the low spots. This is part of a long-term effort to smooth out the tricky terrain.

A wagon is an essential piece of farm equipment.

A Welcome Surprise

It was while I was shoveling the grass clippings out of the wagon that I noticed the daylily. Tucked in among the trees, shining in a small patch of sunlight, was a single bloom reaching toward the sky.

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Impressed by this completely unexpected sight, I crashed my way through tall grass and cherry branches to take a closer look. To my surprise, I discovered much more than a single daylily plant.

There was only one flower in bloom. But a substantial area of ground—a roughly circular spot six feet across—was covered in daylilies. The majority were nothing more than spindly leaves crying out for sunlight in the deep shade of the forest.

I have no idea how these daylilies got started growing in the woods. Perhaps they were transported their accidentally. There are many daylilies across the farm, so anything’s possible.

Or perhaps a former owner of the farm planted them long ago, as part of a landscaping effort around the pond. Maybe they simply got crowded out by encroaching trees to the point where I had never noticed them.

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Transplanting Plants

In any case, I was impressed by the resilience of these woodland daylilies. The one that endeavored to put out a flower under challenging circumstances particularly intrigued me.

I knew the daylilies would never thrive in the ever-deepening shade of the rapidly-growing trees. So I decided then and there to give them a boost by transplanting them to a sunnier location.

Later that afternoon, I returned to my newly-discovered flowerbed with a shovel and some cardboard boxes. Battling my way past hungry mosquitos, I plunged into the shade and quickly dug up the two largest daylilies. I brought a substantial amount of soil with each one in an effort to preserve their roots as well as possible.

I loaded the daylilies into my wagon and set off toward my orchard. The lone flower bobbed along behind me.

Before long I’d successfully planted the two daylilies in a sunny spot along a fenceline, not far from a row of apple trees. With frequent watering to ease the shock of transplanting, I’m happy to report they’re doing well.

Additional flowers have bloomed. I intend to transplant the remainder of the daylilies in the near future—as soon as the mosquitos ease off a little.

I continue to be amazed at the surprises a farm can offer up. Just when you think you’ve learned every acre by heart, you can casually head out to spread some glass clippings and discover a patch of previously unknown daylilies.

If you ask me, that’s pretty special!

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