Living Ind

Lily of the Bayou

by Mary Tutwiler

The Daylily Festival blooms in Abbeville.

What started five years ago as a little flower festival under the oaks of Abbeville's Magdalene Square has blossomed into a day-long botanical event. The star of the show is the flower that put Abbeville on the horticultural map ' the daylily. Indigenous to Asia, daylilies became popular in the United States in the 1930s. By the 1950s, two Abbeville growers, Mr. W.B. McMillan and Mrs. Lucille Guidry, made inroads hybridizing a plant that found itself so comfortable in the south Louisiana climate it was known as a ditch lily. Those lilies gone wild are the simple yellow and orange flowers found blooming all over Acadiana in June. Hybridizing created a vast array of colors and shapes. Pink, purple, lavender, melon and cream are some of the color offerings. Petal patterns can be ruffled, trumpeted, star or spider shaped, and single or double layered.

Pat Guidry is one of the growers who will be represented at the festival this year. Guidry says hybridizing daylilies is a vastly satisfying hobby anyone can master. "You just dust the pollen from one flower onto another flower," he says. "The daylily will make seeds. Plant the seeds, and next year you will have a new flower, one you created." Petals can come out flecked, edged, tipped and dotted with contrasting color. Diamond dusting, a color variation, occurs when tiny crystals in the flower's cells reflect light, and the flower appears to be sprinkled with tiny sparkling diamonds.

Seventy-five different varieties of daylilies from $5 to $20 a plant will be on sale, as well as orchids, hibiscus and bromeliads. A series of speakers includes Dr. Charles Allen, charter member of the Louisiana Native Plant society, who will talk about the uses of wild plants for teas, spices and salads. Daylilies aren't just beautiful; they're edible, too.

The Daylily Festival is 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, June 3 in Magdalene Square, downtown Abbeville. For more information, call the Abbeville Chamber of Commerce at 893-2491.