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In Birdland, the lilies are beginning. Years ago, Michael surprised me for our anniversary with a modest circle of orange daylilies. They were really just ditch lilies that he dug up from the edge of our woods, but I treasure the image of him filling the bed of our little truck and then planting them in a 3-foot circle. (I must have imagined this image, because in actual fact, he surprised me, leading me to the kitchen window to peer out after the digging was done — but I still treasure the image.)

These lilies spread so that now the circle is 15 feet or more, and it’s helping me with my goal of letting flowers take over the yard with just a few mown paths to get from one place to another — the laundry line, the chicken coop, the aviary, the barn.

But then he read that the ditch lilies were invasive and set out to replace them with hybrid lilies. Enter Jim and Rod of Five Acre Farm Daylillies, who sent me a present out of the blue. It was an amazing gift, a registered lily called “Lullaby of Birdland.” Well it’s been two years since I learned about their farm and wanted to visit, but when it bloomed again (unusual spider-like flowers as big as a dinner plate, deep purple with a yellow center), I looked on their web page ( to discover that their Garden Guest Season has arrived.

Although it was very hot, we jumped in the car and drove down to Tolono to visit on Sunday. They’re open weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but you can also call ahead and make arrangements to visit during the week.

We got to meet Rod, who was sitting outside under a white tent. We masked up and sat in the shade with the fan blowing — quite comfortable despite the oppressive humidity.

Outside the tent was a little red wagon planted with succulents, which were also for sale on the tent-side table. On another table lay a selection of blossoms pulled from the stem with more blooms piled up in an oval wire basket.

It was just a tiny sampling of what was growing in the beds all around us. We had a pleasant conversation with Rod about the farm, about the lilies, with even a lesson on hybridizing.

But he must have known that the beds were beckoning, and he took us on a short walk to point out a few specialties and told us a few stories (about the Dick Justice Spirit, an impressive 5½ inch blossom in orange and gold, about the origin of the late blooming Charleston collection ...).

He gave me a little clipboard and showed us how to look for the name cards at the foot of the blossoms we like. Each bed was a riot of flowers exploding out of the jungle of leaves, arcing like green fountains, and I wrote down names and annotated them (this one was a tiny elfin peach-colored bloom, that one had that distinctive golden ruffle on the edges of the petals).

Some of the beds were named for poets (Dickinson, Frost). I found myself drawn to the deep purples and burgundies, and the minis.

Rod invited us to meander around the grounds, looking at the working beds where the magic happens. “But don’t deadhead anything,” he warned. (Do people DO that? Deadhead in other people’s gardens?)

He had already used a couple of flower heads from the table to demonstrate how to deposit pollen from one flower’s anther to the stigma of another blossom when you want to try for a cross.

Of course, it takes some time to discover which parental traits are passed on, but the main point is that the seeds from those experimental crossings will be waiting in the seedpods once the blossom fades and dies.

In the end, my list was rather long, and I had to cross a few off, and then add some of the late-blooming varieties, so we could have blooms all summer.

The prices vary from $11 to “too rich for my blood,” as my grandma would say. Rod will prepare my order and we will go back in a week or so to pick it up, hoping for a nice day, so we can walk again in the daylily wonderland.

Foster Beauty; Cultivate Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. If you’re missing your weekly dose of Birdland Letters in The News-Gazette, you can still read them every week in the Piatt County Journal Republican. Consider subscribing to support your small-town newspaper. You can see pictures of the daylilies on Instagram @BirdlandLetters. Mary can be reached at or via snail mail care of the Journal Republican, 118 E. Washington St., Monticello, IL 81856. She wants to thank her friends for writing letters, and she will answer them soon.