|If there's one
pleasant memory all of us share with our grandmothers who lived in
the country, it's the sight of daylilies.
In their yards, the flowers seemed to bloom like magic each morning,
splashing a riot of colors across the landscape.
Daylilies were favorites with our grandmothers because they required
little if any attention. They came back year after year, multiplied,
and bloomed from spring to fall. They seemed to thrive with neglect.
My grandmother, who grew daylilies on the morning side of her farm
home in Slocum, advised her newly-married daughter, "Annie Mae, if
you can't grow daylilies you can't grow anything."
For Jack Carpenter daylilies have been a part of his life since he
was a sixth grader and his grandmother Marie Hooper bought a pair
of lilies at a Methodist church bazaar near Galena Park.. "I thought
they were the most magnificent things I had ever seen and I crossed
the two lilies.When they bloomed for me in the eighth grade I was
hooked," he said.
Carpenter's childhood fascination led him in the 1970s to establish
one of East Texas' most popular daylily farms, a palette of colors
sprawling over a hilltop five miles west of Center on Texas Highway
7. The Lily Farm was nearly two decades in the making. Carpenter kept
his fascination with daylilies throughout high school and went to
Texas A&I University at Kingsville to pursue a teaching career, but
took side courses in plant pathology, landscaping, and horticulture.
He taught at Eagle Lake, Long Island, New York, Klein and Center before
retiring. His day lily hobby returned with a rush. He created a couple
of small lily farms before buying the 42-acre hilltop where he now
tends four acres and an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 lilies. He is
assisted by Josie Bomar, who once owned a portion of the hilltop,
and another employee.
"I had no intention of getting this deep into daylilies but I brought
over four lilies to see how they would grow in the soil here. Soon
I had drilled a water well and moved my smaller nursery to the hill,"
he said. Carpenter sends lilies by mail to computer customers all
over America and a few foreign countries. He is respected for his
ability to hybridize new and unique lilies, including the Dena Marie,
Catherine Neal, and Mount Herman Marvel. Each year he plants 20,000
lily seeds. Each seed produces a different variety. Carpenter has
achieved success despite the fact his farm is only open to the public
four hours six days a week between mid-May and mid-June. That's when
his lilies bloom the best and when lily enthusiasts clamor to see
According to history, daylilies originated in Asia and became popular
in the American South because tending them didn't take time away from
farm or household chores demanded of women.
Daylilies have changed considerably since the Old South era. "In those
days, the lilies were largely yellow and orange," said Carpen