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Let Us Now Consider the Lilies

Dwalia South

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DITCH LILY-- A Ditch Lily showing-off in Dr. South’s flowerbed.

The central figure of this month’s Southernism is locally known by a rather unsavory and unjust moniker... the Ditch Lily.

My introduction to propagating the ‘ditch lily’ took place perhaps 30 years ago as I had noticed the magnificent orange display literally in a boggy ditch on Highway 4 West on the roadside property of Mr. William Spight. Every summer without fail I had observed those faithful flowers putting on an eye-catching display and overshadowing all the native weeds surrounding them. And every summer Mr. Spight would ‘bush hog’ them all down. The lilies were never deterred by this and always returned annually to brighten my morning drive to the clinic.

Then one year, I stopped and asked Mr. William if he would mind if I came and dug some of them up to put in my flower bed at home. He said, “Lordy mercy, girl, get all you want... but someday you may regret it...because they can take you over!”

I was undaunted. The never-say-die attitude of this humbly charming and reliably hardy day lily carried great appeal to me. I have never regretted adding them to my yard and look forward to their annually vivid show-off blooms that entertain us for a few weeks, an amazing feat as each lily blossom only survives for one day.

Some of the prettiest flowers we grow here in the South have some of the strangest common names... think about the big showy Cemetery Lily (Crinum), Spider Lily, Naked Lady Lily, Resurrection Lily (Surprise Lily)... the list is endless.

Our Ditch Lily is also known as the Tiger Day Lily, the 4th of July Lily, the Railroad Lily, and the Outhouse Lily. Many of the lilies named above are not even true lilies but are in the amaryllis family.

The scientific name of our featured lily is from the Greek -Hemerocallis fulva -hemera (day), kallos (beauty), fulva (tawny, orange). The plant is actually a native of Asia and was brought to this country by settlers two centuries ago. It has made itself right at home here, thriving in any kind of soil or environment. It is almost, but not quite, as potentially invasive as a fellow oriental transplant, the dreaded kudzu vine. I was somewhat stunned when searching for images of the ‘ditch lily’ online, that amid endless attractive photos of the blossom, and numerous gorgeous varieties for sale, there were sites that gave the reader hints on “How to get rid of your troublesome day lilies.” Oh, well...there is no accounting for taste.

As I am prone to do when composing my monthly missive, I would like to change gears and really get down to ‘considering the lilies’ in the way that Jesus talked about in His Sermon on the Mount. The observance of nature, even the lowly ‘ditch lily’ reliably informs us that our present circumstances, our youth, our beauty, our physical strength and, yes, our very existence are all fleeting with each passing day. We need these reminders, these lessons from the natural world around us.

“Consider the lilies, how they grow. They toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is thrown in the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

Obviously we all have physical needs, and it is fitting and proper that we work to provide for them. We should not, however, put so much focus on acquiring things that we lose out on our greater purpose of life. Wordsworth said it best, “The world is too much with us.”

When Jesus compared humans to the lilies of the field in Matthew 6, he reminded us that our physical lives are temporary. Like the lilies, one day we are in the fullness of beautiful bloom, and the next, we are on the compost heap.

Sadly, by the time this month’s Southernism appears in print, our ephemeral day lilies will have ‘done their do’ for this year.

But, much like the precious brief moment in the sun of the lilies, this passing day does not signify the end of our existence. The day lilies serve to remind us that we are not ‘annuals’; the Lord has fashioned us as ‘perennials’! Time and again through the world of Nature, God teaches us that what ultimately matters is how well we use this temporary life on earth to focus on those things that will matter throughout eternity.

LILIES IN FULL BLOOM-- Beautiful display of lilies on the Highway 4 roadside, at the home of Nila and Larry Street.

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