On road trips, often it’s the flowers blooming everywhere – by the side of the road, in untended lots, throughout otherwise unoccupied fields – that make the biggest impression, no matter how many famous gardens and botanical sites we visit. 

During a mid-July excursion that took us through the Berkshires, into Northwestern Connecticut, and back, there was definitely a “plant of the trip” and it was Hemerocallis fulva, aka the “ditch lily.”  It was in untended as well as tended spots (as seen here).

Why would I take such delight in such a familiar plant, one that many gardeners dismiss or even refer to as “invasive?” (Nope, it’s not, not according to the DEC list in my state.) A plant that you can see everywhere at a certain time of year?

It’s exactly because it was absolutely everywhere during this trip that we found it so lovely. The quantity. The orange masses everywhere. No wonder it’s also called the “fourth of July” lily; it provides fireworks at just the right time. 

If a big patch of it was in my garden, I’d likely get bored with it – and I’d certainly be unhappy in late July, August and September, having devoted heavy real estate to its strappy foliage. 

It’s the same reason I delight in the common violas that take over my front garden in April and early May, or want to pull over and pick armfuls of goldenrod that dominates the roadside scene in September. 

If I lived in California, I would be taking the same delight in the spring poppy blooms. If Texas, I’d be on the roads during bluebonnet season. 

This is the pure pleasure that I only get occasionally- and to a lesser degree – in my own garden. There never seems to be enough of any one thing to produce an unfettered explosion of color. 

I also enjoy the purity of it being just one dominant species. Though if it was the same plant with a wide color range, that would be okay too.

Oh, and I don’t want to go wading through the mud in spring to find hepaticas or painted trillium. I want everything to be out there where I can see it. Though geranium maculatum is lovely and tends to be more visible.

I always go back to the ditch lily though. It escaped from cultivated areas, took up residence where it could and somehow still asserts its presence, in spite of human contempt and deer predation.