IN FULL BLOOM
Lakeview Daylily Farm
by Jessie Ammons
photographs by Geoff Wood
Noel Weston knows plants. As the first-ever horticulturalist for the City of Raleigh, he spent three decades managing park blooms, roadside annuals, and the trees and grasses of other public spaces. After all of those years, one flower stood out for him: daylilies. Weston says the plant’s low maintenance and reliably bright annual blooms make for a crowd-pleaser. “They’re easy and people love them,” he says. “That’s good enough for me.”
At Weston’s Lakeview Daylily Farm in Garner, a sea of 1,100 daylily varieties blooms across five acres, and most of them are for sale. There are traditional smooth-edged flowers in golden hues, and then there are varieties with names like little fat cat, bursting loose, white predator, and exotic flag. Weston’s favorite is called Connie can’t have it. Some have ruffled petals, others have colors as vibrant and varied as a palette of paint. Weston has been collecting cultivars for decades, he says, gathered from various gardening group meetings, visits to publc and private gardens, and the Raleigh Hemerocallis (daylily) Club. The daylily club’s president, Wanda Quinn, and her husband, Ray, operated a commercial garden for many years that helped jump-start Weston’s collection. But now, Lakeview Daylily Farm’s wide variety hails “from all over.”
Although Weston sells between 5,000 and 7,000 plants a year, he’s not too concerned with the numbers. “I loved my job” as horticulturalist, he says, and this is his way to love retirement. “People who don’t work when they retire don’t last long.”
A love of gardening also inspires the other 15 acres at Lakeview (which adjoins Weston Farms, where daughter Erin Weston grows magnolias for her luxury wreath and tablescape business). In addition to daylilies, Noel Weston also has a few koi ponds; some banana, apple, and pear trees; a recently planted okra plot; and some blueberry bushes – for the moment. He’s also dabbling in raising guppies, but he’s not ready to sell them. Yet.
For the most part, Weston maintains Lakeview himself. During the peak blooming season of June to August, he’ll hire a few people to help out. Then it’s back to the patient rhythm of strolling the grounds, keeping a close eye on each plant, season to season. With the weathered visage of one who has spent more of his years outside than in, and a cache of naturalist witticisms – “Daylilies: also known as deer candy” – it’s clear that Weston’s retirement has legs.
Open during bloom season Fridays – Sundays 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., or by appointment; 1000 Benson Road, Garner; weston-farms.com/daylilies