Lilies of My Heart: A Story of Survival

Our first house was a teeny little bungalow that was once owned by a Master Gardner and her Carpenter husband. Needless to say the landscaping was stunning and extensive. Every planting was labeled with cute little pewter tags bearing the Latin name of the species. Plant beds were grouped into clusters of flowers and foliage that were perfectly orchestrated to stagger blooms across three seasons.

No pressure, right?

The house was vacant when we moved in, and at the closing, Master Gardner apologized profusely for the state of the plant beds. She was aghast at how much weeding needed to be done since the beds had sat untended in the several weeks since they had moved. She further explained that she styled everything to be reminiscent of an English Garden, only a little more Wild and Free. (O-kay. For whatever sense that made to me.) I tried to look confident when I assured her that I didn’t mind a little extra weeding. I told her I could handle it.

I was wrong. I took one long tour around the gardens, admired many, many species of plant–most of which I had never seen before–read each perfectly labeled placard, and was promptly overwhelmed. I had no choice but to call for Reinforcements.

“Mom? Could you please come help me weed my gardens? I don’t know what’s a weed and what is supposed to be there!”

My mother came to the rescue wielding shiny-new garden tools that were our housewarming gifts.  Thank goodness for mothers, eh? It didn’t take long before my mom was as overwhelmed as I was with the plant vs. weed identification process. We decided that anything in a large cluster was probably intentional, and anything that seemed to sprout up just about anywhere was a weed. For the most part, we were pretty successful.

RIP Lemon Mint. I just didn’t know!

Adoration doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings for these lilies.

One planting group that didn’t need explanation were these orange lilies. I knew lilies. Well, I knew that these were lilies, but to this day, I have no idea what kind. Tiger lilies? Fire lilies? Orange lilies? Whatever. They were pretty and I loved them. Interestingly enough, Master Gardner mentioned the lilies by name. She apologized for planting those scraggly lilies, but she needed to fill space to list the house and she didn’t know what else to put in their spot.

Did she just call my lilies scraggly? Yep. Wrinkled her nose and made a puke-face when she did it too. 😉

That’s all right. I vowed to nurture the lilies and help them thrive in that space! As if I knew anything about such matters. I faithfully talked to them as I watered, and by the end of that summer, my maligned scraggly lilies had filled in to create a lush, 6 foot section of blooms along our fence.

Ha! Scraggly indeed! My lilies thrived due to no skill whatsoever on my part my love and dedication. Our rescue Dane, Noelle also had a fondness for the orange lilies. I caught her on many an occasion lying in the middle of my lily patch, sunning herself!

The shi@head rascal! Have you ever tried to move 160 pounds of dog that did. not. want. to. move? Futility at its finest, my Friends.

Now one might think that all that pupper weight lounging on a patch of flowers would cause irreparable damage–but one would be wrong. Those lilies were tough! Bounced back every time! Amazing. From that moment on, the orange lilies were forever referred to as Noelle’s Lilies.

We lost our sweet Noelle while we still lived in the first house, so when we moved to new digs, I was sure to thin out half a dozen of those lilies to take with us. I even had the audacity to ask the owner of our new home if I could come plant them in the yard before we even closed on the house! Which I did.

Oh, to be young and self-centered. 😉

I admit that I didn’t tend them as carefully as I did in our first house. Son #1 was on the scene at the time, with Son #2 not far behind. I pretty much threw the bulbs in the clay soil and ignored them. Despite my neglect, the lilies flourished and soon commandeered another 6 foot swath of previously barren land. Go lilies!

Given their obvious heartiness, I knew that they would make the trek Up North with us when we moved to the 45th parallel. I figured that if a big ol’ dog and years of neglect couldn’t kill them, then they’d make it through the long winters.

This is how Noelle’s Lilies look today. I transplanted my (now) usual 6 bulbs tubers, and they’ve taken over yet another 6 foot patch of previously empty garden space. It’s just what they do. To this day, every time I pull into our driveway or see these lilies, I can’t help but imagine that our sweet Noelle is lounging in their leaves.

Although, now she has a little competition from Daisy.

Do you transplant anything from house to house?

Does the sight of any particular plant or flower remind you of someone?


While you’re out gazing at your landscaping and reminiscing about loved ones, be sure to whip up one of these tasty beverages from our continuing Cocktail Week shenanigans:

Megan – Raging Aztec Frappe and a KITCHENAID BLENDER GIVEAWAY!

Me – Traverse City Cherry Mojito

Allison – Peach Pie Palmer  and Radler

Carrie – Raspberry Tom Collins

Kat – Amaretto Sour

Katie –  Watermelon Mojo

Lauren – Paloma

Madeline –  Blueberry Smash Cocktail

Mads – Peach Bellini

And stay tuned, because we still have a few more boozy libations from Jeanne,  and Allison coming up soon!

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  1. says

    I am the world’s worst gardener. Thanks to growing up in the PNW, my gardening style was “put it in the ground and ignore it forever.”
    Does not work in the desert, FYI.
    I’m not normally a fan of lilies (too many sympathy bouquets with them at a certain point in my life), but these orange ones are just lovely. And I love their name – such a sweet reminder. Sometimes we’d find our cats snoozing on the thyme or under the sage. The blurry pic of Daisy made me chuckle – most of my action shots of Zooey are similar, which is why I usually post ones of her sleeping; that’s the only time she will sit still for a snap.
    I mourned when my mom sold my childhood home, partly because of the amazing herb garden that was home to every herb you’d need in your kitchen (ever) as well as the gigantic rhubarb plant that she left behind for the new owners. She can’t really keep all that in her condo, but it was still sad. Someday, if we ever move away from the Valley of the Surface of the Sun (like up the the 45th…. ahem, TH!), I’d like to try to replicate that.

  2. says

    I can’t tell you the exact name of your lilies but I can tell you that they are daylilies. Hemerocallis, to be more precise. Possibly Kwanso, which is the most common orange variety, and for good reason – they are tough and easy to transplant. What you transplanted were actually tubers, not bulbs. (If in doubt, find a photo of a lily bulb and you’ll see what I mean.

    At one time, daylilies were considered part of the Liliaceae (lily) family, but have since been split into their own family. Probably more than you wanted to know, but you can now consider yourself properly botanized on the subject, at least at a general level. Best wishes on your garden – the (day)lilies are lovely!


  3. Nancy says

    My aunt bought my husband and I a Nikko blue hydrangea when we got married. We planted it in our new house. Over the six years we lived there, it grew huge and beautiful. People would stop and comment about how pretty the flowers were. When we decided to sell that house, I knew I would have to take it with us to our new house. We had it put into the closing that it was coming with us! We dug it up and brought it over to our newly built house and planted it near the patio. It was the only plant we had because the house was newly built. We have been here 8 years now and it looks beautiful still! If fact I just came in from watering it. It doesn’t really like the 100 degree day we are having. Sadly my aunt passed away unexpectedly in January of this year, but when I see the hydrangea, I think of her!

    • says

      Oh, Nancy! I love that story! I laughed out loud when I read that you wrote the hydrangea into your closing. I never thought to do that, but I only “thin” the lilies, so no one really notices. Glad you have your hydrangea to remind you of your aunt. Those kind of memories are precious. :)

  4. says

    Oh I loved reading this story of Noelle’s Lilies! They look beautiful and I’m sure her spirit is resting among them…that’s why they are growing so bountiful every year.
    I do not have a green thumb, at all! When we landscaped our new home here in the country we made sure to put in all perennials. I just weed and the plants and flowers grow fine every year. My favourite are two flowering plants (Phlox) called Peppermint Twist. I planted them for my grand-daughter the second summer after we moved in. They went from little starter plants to huge 4’x3′ masses of sweetness. Normally they only grow to a height of 16″ and to a spread of 15″ so I guess it’s all this wonderful country air 😉

  5. Debra says

    My mother was not a gardener, despite all her attempts, but the house we lived in during my teen years was surrounded by irises that bloomed beautifully in spite of my mother! 😉 My father died when I was six months pregnant with our first child, and my mother decided that the house was too much for her handle by herself, but she sold it, but not before I “thinned out” her irises. I have moved them with us to an apartment (they “rested” for a year) and two houses. They still come up faithfully every spring and bring me fond memories of a happy home.

  6. says

    I wish I’d remembered to pull a pot of purple flox when we moved from Tulsa to Houston. Every member of the family had a patch in a flowerbed somewhere. The original plant was from TCP’s grandmother’s house. It was from a plant given to her upon the death of TCP’s grandfather. It was like a family tribute to Grandpa Lonon to have a patch of his purple flox in every new home. I was so nervous about moving so far away, and it was winter, so the flox was dormant. I totally forgot it. Whenever I see purple flox creeping over a garden wall, I still think of both of his sweet grandparents. May they rest in peace. Your ‘scraggly’ lilies are absolutely beautiful, by the way!

    • says

      I love that every member of the family has a piece of the phlox. What a nice tribute to both grandparents. Methinks you need to grab a patch from someone before your next move. 😉 I really wish I would have dug up some of my grandmother’s roses that lined her fences in her old house, before she moved into her condo. We all had fond memories of the hours spent watching Gram “putter in the yard.” She was adamant about leaving the roses for the new owner to enjoy after she sold her house. Well, the new owner was a single guy and he ripped out every bit of landscaping to plant grass–right up to the house. Gram’s was hopping mad when she drove buy her old house and noticed the roses were gone! Then she went out and bought a ton of container roses for her condo. I still think of her every time I see rose bushes.

  7. Lori says

    I am pretty sure those are Tigerlilies due to their height. We have a whole side of the house of daylilies and they are only not quite knee high…but in full bloom!

    When we lived in our previous house, our son planted a ‘helicopter’ from the tree in a pot. It grew, we planted it in the ground and ended up with a huge tree. When we moved our neighbor sweetly took seven of the helicopters that fell shortly after we moved and planted them in a pot. We got one to grow and now it is a 12 foot high tree in the backyard of our home. Lovingly referred to as “Kevin’s Tree”. Even more special since our son passed away a year before we moved here.

  8. says

    I’m all at once rejoicing for the survival of the lilies and shaking my head at my complete inability to keep an adult basil plant alive.
    Something about this post made me choke up a little…maybe it was the thought of your sweet Noelle staying in your heart and your lily patch. Beautiful.

    • says

      Ack, basil! Don’t even get me started at my failed attempts of getting basil to grow for more than a week! 😉 Thankfully, I have a sweet neighbor whose basil practically turns into shrubs at his hands, so he shares the wealth.

  9. Nicole Stibbs says

    What a fabulous story!! I adore the peony. As a child my Grandma Costello had peonies lining her driveway. She also had the most wonderful blueberry bushes and veggie gardens. Every time I am in my gardens or canning something, I tend to think of her. I’ve asked my mom once “where does my love and passion for gardening come from?”. I was not raised on a farm. She answered “your passion is yours and your love of gardens and good food is the best mixture of your grandma, your dad and you.”
    “When” I get my new addition and driveway, I intend to plant peonies alongside, in memory of my inspiration, Miss Ellie!!

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