Saturday, August 1, 2009

Garden Muse Day: Prairie Reverie and Daylily Delights

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee

One clover and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do

If bees are few.

--Emily Dickinson

The past two weeks have been busy ones with little free time for blog reading or keeping up with the garden. But it's been a good "busy," so I am not complaining. One of those busy days was spent with Beckie last week when we took advantage of her day off from work to visit two places we have been wanting to see for awhile.

Our first stop of the morning was at Meadowbrook Park in Urbana, Illinois where approximately 30 acres are devoted to a prairie restoration area pictured above. With a plentiful supply of clover and bees, no "revery" was necessary to conjure up the sight of the tallgrass prairie--it lay in plain view before us.

Clumps of native river birch shaded some areas, but most of the prairie restoration project was in full sun, the perfect place for a host of native plants.

Naturally, I was drawn to the purple coneflowers, and if you click to enlarge this photo, you'll see I wasn't the only visitor drawn to these tall natives.

The plants here are not labelled, so it is up to the visitor to identify them for herself. I'm not sure, but these coneflowers closely resemble the original Prairie Coneflowers, Echinacea pallida.

It was very easy to identify this milkweed, although not which particular species it belongs to. It is likely the Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, because most of these specimens were at least five feet tall.

Are you impressed by my ability to give the Latin botanical names here?:) Well, don't be--I took along a handy guidebook of Illinois wildflowers checked out from the local library to help in the identification. Beckie and I consulted it often to help us identify several of the species we didn't know. Without the book we would never have been able to identify this native, Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum.

Nor would we have known the specific name for this monarda--Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa.

There is no planting scheme here; all the natives happily mingle with each other.

Finally, I have a name for this plant--Daisy Fleabane, Erigeron strigosus, which also grows abundantly around our farm. Or is it False Aster, Boltonia asteroides that I have on the farm?? Even with my handy guide, Beckie and I couldn't identify every plant we saw.

This tall plant remains a mystery to us. I thought it might be ironweed, but without any blooms, it's hard for me to tell.

We also weren't sure about this dainty lavender bloom. Any ideas?

The compass plant, however, is easy to recognize. Rising above the prairie field, it reaches heights of 8 feet or more.

When it comes to other yellow flowers, though, there are so many possibilities. These are black-eyed Susans, or are they brown-eyed Susans??

This looks like some type of Helenium; then again, it might be a type of Helianthus. Beckie and I gave up trying to compare the several pages of yellow wildflowers in the guide to the flowers in front of us and just enjoyed the sights.

After an hour of sensory stimulation in the prairie park, we hit the road and traveled through the countryside to find our main destination of the day: 5 Acre Daylily Farm. Neither of us had ever visited a daylily farm before, so this was an eye-opening experience, to say the least.

Beckie has already posted about our visit, but one thing she neglected to mention was that while we were there she was asked for an interview by a local news reporter/journalism instructor. You can check out the end result by visiting the online version of our local newspaper; on the right sidebar click on "Audio Slide Show: Devoted to Daylilies." If you do check this out, please be advised that in the photo with the side view of me, that is NOT a chocolate bar I am stuffing in my mouth. We had missed lunch, and I was trying to re-energize with a granola bar. After seeing this photo, I will definitely be checking out the weight loss book recommended by Carolyn Gail:)

After over an hour of roaming through the fields and oohing and aahing, I hit the wall--is there such a thing as daylily overload?? It was time to make some hard decisions about our purchases. I had come prepared with a list of choices from 5 Acre's website, but I had to whittle this down to fit my budget. I purchased "Little Grapette" after reading glowing recommendations for it from many of you.

My other choices, though, were determined by my own very scientific method. Number 1, is it pretty? "Tangerine Rose Ruffles" fit that bill, and a fan was dug up to take home.

So did "Moonlight Serenade," still blooming here in my shade garden. My other criteria for selection was . . . a catchy name. "Prairie Blue Eyes" was chosen for obvious reasons, and what English teacher could pass up "Canterbury Tales"? Neither was still in bloom, so no photos available here. "Tennyson" was a little pricey, but "Divine Comedy" and "Romeo Lies Bleeding" might just find their way here next summer.

Before leaving, though, the owner enticed us with one more offer. As daylily breeders, they create new hybrids each year. At the end of the season, some are selected to be propagated next year, but the nameless leftovers are sold off for $15 a clump. That meant Beckie and I could easily divide and share these unique lilies and give them whatever name we chose. Beckie has appropriately named hers "Dragonfly Corner" and already shared a large fan with me.

My choice has been temporarily planted in the shade garden until I can create a new flowerbed just for daylilies. It is also still nameless, though I am thinking of calling it "Prairie Sunrise"--what do you think?

Beckie also admired this large orange and yellow beauty, and I purchased this to give to her in memory of my goddaughter Andrea. I know it will cast a special light in the Dragonfly Corner garden.

All in all, it was a wonderful day to stimulate the senses and nourish the soul, not to mention spending it in the company of a very dear friend.

For more Muse Day posts, please visit our hostess, Carolyn Gail of Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.


  1. Beautiful photos as always and it seemed a perfect trip.

  2. This is my kind of day and trip. Love the prairie. I always think of Little House on the Prairie when I think of prairies. I don't know what your tall plant is, but I think the violet flower is a ruellia. They grow wild here and I have decided to let them grow in my garden. Normally I weed them out but they are pretty.

    The daylily farm was fun! I will have to check out the interview. So glad you got some seedlings. This is my preferred method of acquiring daylilies. Sure, no named cultivars but still just as pretty.

    I'm most impressed by your Latin names:)

  3. Thank you so much for taking us along. I like the daylilies you chose, and I also like Romeo lies bleeding. They're all good ones. The prairie meadow was splendid, and you guys did such a great job of the plants. Happy Muse Day.~~Dee

  4. I like how you chose your daylilies; you have to have some method or you would go mad trying to decide. English lit names is as good a method as any.

    I also quite enjoyed that video! You two are becoming quite the local gardening celebrities!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  5. Looks like a wonderful trip to me Rose. Plus you getting to spend it with Beckie, I know you girls had a great time.

    How smart to take along a plant i.d. book. It's always fun trying to figure out what plant is what.

    That last daylily you pictured is gorgeous and how big!

  6. Of course I loved Emily's take on the meadow. She is one of my favorite poets.

    I saw the interview. It was good. It sounds like you gals had the best time. Wish I could have gone with you.

    ARen't those daylily farms overwhelming?? I love going there though.

  7. Maggie May, It was a perfect day trip!

    Tina, Several of the prairie plants would undoubtedly be classified as "weeds" by other people. They're pretty in the right setting, though. I thought being able to name our own daylilies sounded like fun!

    Dee, I don't even remember what Romeo looks like, but I've got to have one! A wildflower guide sure comes in handy for these plants.

    Carol, I don't know about garden celebrities; neither of us felt very qualified to talk about daylilies. I was overwhelmed by all the choices; I had to have some method to pick:)

    Susie, We had a great time; it's so much more fun to have a good friend who also enjoys gardening along on these "adventures." The last daylily hybrid had very big blooms.

    Lisa, We would have loved to have you along! This farm may be small compared to others, but it was large enough to overwhelm me.

  8. Dear Rose....the daylillies are wonderful....and I can see why you and Beckie are drawn to them. A sweet girf Rose, perfect.
    I love the video clip of you both....I felt like I was with you strolling and enjoying the moment.....


    the prairie is wonderful.....oh what I would do to walk them.....such magical places and such a lot of history....
    I love your soft and natural photography, it shows the area perfectly.
    A lovely post Rose....and stop worrying about your look lovely.......

  9. Rose, your post is an excellent example of why I leave most of our adventures for you to write about. You do it SO well!

    It was a wonderful day spent with my best friend and gardening comrade. :)

    I will always treasure Andrea's lily. It was the sweetest and most thoughtful gift and has a special place in the garden already. I plan on making it the center of a group of new plantings.

    Happy Muse Day to you. Can you believe it's August already!??

  10. We love Emily Dickinson (a local girl) who was always succinct - but never simple. And I am about to start a daylily garden too. My daughter gave me several for my birthday. She knows me so well.

  11. Lovely meadow pictures. Meadows are not as common as they once were. Looks like you had a great day.

  12. Hi Rose, I just visited a prairie yesterday and will blog about it soon! :) The little purple flower is wild petunia, Ruellia humelis, and I think the tall one may in fact be iron weed. The buds get purple (and are quite hard to the touch, which is maybe why it's called that?) before they open--I'm not sure if they start out that green, though...

  13. What a wonderful day out, I enjoyed sharing it with you. The Day Lilies are all lovely and the wild flowers are just amazing, it seems so strange to see the Cone Flowers growing wild there, I wish they did here.

  14. Cheryl, I have grown to love daylilies in the last year, but now I have to make a new bed to have room for them! You would so enjoy walking around the prairie with us; it's full of wildlife activity as well. Thanks for the positive comments; I think I would feel better if I lost a few pounds, though.

    Beckie, Thanks, but I always enjoy seeing the same scene from your perspective as well. We had a great day, and I hope we can have another "adventure" soon! Notice I'm not so stressed out about August as I used to be:)

    Commonweeded, A good way to describe Emily! I've fallen in love with daylilies in the past year.

    Janet, No, ironically, cities or park districts must set aside land specifically for a prairie/meadow planting. Some are very small.

    Monica, I thought about wild petunia after seeing it in the guide book, but wasn't sure. Can't wait to see your prairie visit!

    ShySongbird, Coneflowers are native to this area, and the prairie variety grew wild here before the settlers came. I like to think this is what the land looked like before being plowed up and subdivided.

  15. What a wonderful day! You're very lucky to have such beautiful prairie restorations near you. Thanks for sharing the photos--it nourishes my soul here in the land of suburban sprawl to know that successful restorations are happening throughout the state. Plus, I love the English lit names for the lilies! Please get 'Divine Comedy' next year. Dante is incomparable!

  16. I am on sensory overload just looking at all those wonderful pics you've posted! They are beautiful. The daylilies are so colourful. That little monarch on the coneflowers looks so happy.

    Will check out the video clip. Thanks for taking us along on your day trip.

  17. Perfect poem and a fun trip through the wild prairie before traveling to the cultivate daylily farm. I've never been to one, Rose - it does look as if the the experience would be overwhelming. I'd need a granola bar for strength, too!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  18. Rose, We have some advocates in the area for prairie restorations and for roadsides for wildlife that must be thanked for adding more naturalized areas here. I'm thinking a whole English Lit garden would be nice someday!

    Wendy, I was certainly on sensory overload on this day, especially at the daylily farm. Glad you enjoyed it!

    Annie, This farm was only 5 acres; I'm not sure I could handle one of the larger ones:) I wanted to buy every lily I saw!

  19. Rose, I love seeing the some of my favorite prairie flowers. Yours are blooming just a little ahead of the ones up here.

    How lucky you are to have a huge daylily farm close by. I would be happy to spend a day wandering around there.

  20. Wow Rose, almost too many flowers, NOT! I loved hearing about the prairie and your ID really helped. The little lavender flower looks like a ruellia of some sort. I love the wild monarda, too. Your daylilies are all great, little grapette grows here, a gift from daughter Semi, who also has Moonlit Masquerade. I can vouch for the vigor of both. Your name for new one sounds perfect too. :-)

  21. Isn't the prairie awesome! I love it at this time of year, when it's in full bloom. I concur with Monica that the lavender flower is Wild Petunia, Ruellia humilis. The yellow & brown flowers are one of my favorites, Ratibida pinnata, the Grayhead Coneflower. Looks like you picked some great Daylilies. Going to a Daylily farm is the best.

  22. love your Muse day poem, and how great to get to name your own daylily. I have 'grapette' and love it! thanks for visiting my zucchini -week and commenting!

  23. Thanks for your lovely contribution to GBMD, Rose.

    What a lovely stroll through the prairie and the daylily farm.

    How thrilling to be able to name a daylily . You made some great choices.

  24. I love your criteria for choosing lilies!

    I imagined a priaire was sort of empty. Okay, I'll try again to type and spell prairie - yes, that's it!

    I believe it's a granola bar you're eating and I'm sure you needed it after your hard day!

  25. Looks like a wonderful day Rose, and you and Beckie chose some fantastic daylilies. Now I'm off to see the video!

  26. What would muse day be without Emily? Rose, your post is just perfect from every angle. You know how I like these kinds of jaunts. And I especially like your homegrown variety of humility ("if you're impressed...don't be"). I thought that Ruellia looked familiar. We have one here (my fault for buying and planting it), Ruellia brittoniana, that is proving quite a nuisance. I do battle with it a couple of times a year in my front porch flower bed. Just went another round yesterday, and I am tuckered out! I can never seem to completely eradicate it. Your prairie variety looks much more well-behaved.

  27. Marnie, We spent about 3 hours at the daylily farm, enough to overwhelm me:)

    Frances, It's good to know that I made some good selections. I like the sound of Prairie Sunrise.

    MMD, The gray-head coneflower--I checked it out in my book, and you are absolutely right! That's one I've never heard of before.

    Muum, We had sauteed zucchini for supper tonight; soon it will be zucchini bread, zucchini cake ...:)

    Carolyn Gail, Thanks for hosting Muse Day! It's always fun to select an appropriate poem for the month.

    Liz, Honestly, before the flowers bloom, the prairie looks like a lot of weeds. Thanks for believing me about the granola bar:)

    Linda, With a larger budget and more room in the garden, even more would have gone home with us!

    W2W, Emily is the perfect choice for any nature-related theme. I'm not sure all these prairie plants would behave in my garden either; in fact, some of them would definitely be considered a nuisance here, like the thistles.

  28. Beautiful wildflowers and daylilies! A day on a daylily farm sounds like a day in heaven.


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