Last Blooms

The beauty—and brevity—of daylilies.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY P. SAVAGE

Picking daylilies doesn’t elicit the guilt typical of cutting flowers. Maybe all that deadheading hardens one. Also, consider the sublime and the tragic: In addition to brief lives, the blooms are fragile, endearing them further to the poetic temperament. Think I’m joking? After a violent morning rain, step outside and inspect 130+ flowers of all styles and nuances, gorgeous and luminous moments earlier and that you’ve waited a year for—ravaged to a mottled, goopy mess, their beauty taken. A gloomy sight.

In the early evening I pick four flowers and fl oat them in a glass bowl on the coffee table. I hold to the conceit that selection is prized by the plants, based on a hybrid’s crazily productive day, a complementary palette of color, or personal whim. As the season wanes, a lily’s final bloom—job well done—merits a wistful spot in the bowl. Always, though, I wait until early evening for my harvest, each flower deserving of its day in the sun, bold toward the sky or coquettish from within her foliage. Let the remaining bees have their fun, too, a good tumble in the pollen.

A slashing gray storm arrived from nowhere. No time for caution. Seconds could make the difference.

This game of hours can be risky. Yesterday afternoon, the very end of the season with two of only three remaining buds in bloom, a slashing gray storm arrived from nowhere. I was instinctively out of my chair and running, barefoot, onto the porch, down the slick stepping stones. No time for caution or jacket. Seconds could make the difference.

Happy ending: Our eccentric hero got to the lilies in time and snapped them from their stems. One in each hand and shielded by the body, he cradled his tender cargo, splashing through the grass back to safety. First responder!

That was yesterday. This morning, I tossed the remains, now a handful of goo, into the bin and scrubbed the bowl I would no longer need. The last bloom of the season, a rangy, golden Bengaleer, hovers as lone sentry above the withered bed.

Which can only mean one thing: The hell of August is on its way. Time’s up for ephemeral beauty. Time for the poets to lock their doors.


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