Collection for [of] me...

I collect many things. Among the many are antique floral frogs, odd terra cotta pots, books about Hillary Clinton, and daylilies. Most of the things I can collect by myself, in silence, without involving others or their opinions on my collections, but with the daylilies, that's just not the case.

Collectors naturally collect themselves in one place. A club. A society. A picnic. A convention. In the daylily world, there is the American Hemerocallis Society (membership approx. 10,000 world-wide), its associated regions, and the local clubs that make up each region. We hold symposiums, tours and exhibition shows. We publish an amazing magazine several times a year. We visit each others gardens to view their collections and we spend countless hours planning on what to add to our own collections..

I garden on what they call a "city space" - a smallish lot on a busy street near a busy intersection in a bustling city. I try to artfully maintain my little piece of the universe, and every inch is used with focused intention. I grow about 200 different daylily hybrids, along with hundreds of annuals, perennials, hanging baskets and container gardens. Because my space is limited, I must be discerning about what is included.

This year I had an epiphany on my own collection.

I heard myself ask myself (stay with me) "Why do we collect?" A person may feel pressure from club members, other gardeners or established "collectors" to collect certain things by certain people from certain places. The growers may also get a feeling of validation or a sense of personal proof that we "have stuff" that is equal to what the Joneses have.

I'm a bit different. Imagine that.

I grow some things just for use in exhibition. I grow some plants that were gifts. I grow rare things like seedlings* I selected on visits to hybridizer's gardens. I grow some daylilies because of their names, which may remind me of people and places I have known.

There was a time when I didn't want unnamed seedlings in my yard, hybridized by me or anyone else. If it wasn't an AHS registered cultivar, why did I need it? I only wanted pedigree-proof plants taking up precious space in my yard. That was 15 years or so ago, when I wasn't aware of the personal void my garden could - and should fill.

I was building a "Display Garden" where people could come and view things that they read about, or saw on a website. Cultivars that others grew and sought after. Forms and colors and introductions people only read about, and lots of them. And then I realized (here is the epiphany) that my garden was being built for other people who may or may not ever see it.

Many, many plants in the garden, not just daylilies, represent a time and place in my life. The hundreds of perennials in my yard are individually remembered and are planted for a reason. Hostas I bought at my first hosta show. Daylilies picked out for me from my daylily collecting mentor. Toad lilies found at a roadside nursery in the Irish Hills of Michigan. Heuchera gently carried home on a plane. Hydrangea dug from a 100+ year old stand. Sweet autumn clematis from my grandmothers yard. Iris from a dear friend of the family, who has known me since birth.

It dawned on me that all the seedlings* in a hybridizers bed could be the next $200 introduction from them. If I pulled the psychological veil off my eyes that it had to be "registered" to be great, I could experience a whole other level of discovery. At Northern Mecca this year I was able to purchase two seedlings from the incomparable Bob Faulkner and two others from the adorable Joel Thomas Polston and Doug Sterling at Pleasant Valley. They are both spectacular beyond belief. I now have the only four clumps of these daylilies in existence. And I would have paid $100 a piece if they ever would have been "registered." They all could have appeared on the cover of daylily sales catalogs. But they won't. I have them all to myself, and when they bloom I can remember the hybridizers personally digging them for me and sending me on my way.

I am now free in the new awareness that my collection is for me. And because it is for me, it is OF me. The collection is a personal tapestry of my gardening experiences.

Now that is a satisfying thought.


* Seedling- In the daylily, this term is used to reference any unregistered** plant raised from seed. A seedling may be of any size or age and may or may not be used in a hybridizing program.

** Registered - A cultivar (clone) has been registered when its description and an acceptable name have been approved by the registrar appointed by the American Hemerocallis Society, the official international authority for all Hemerocallis registrations. The names of the originator and introducer (if introduced) are also recorded. Only one cultivar may be registered under a given name.


Catherine said...

very educational!!

i bet your new realization is very freeing, but now that you are not restricted, you may get overwhelmed.


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