Human Flower Project
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Hemerocallis Fulva: Let Jimi Take Over
Summer’s tiger lily opens visions of Hendrix, the “Wild Thing” at Monterey.
Tiger lilies (Hemerocallis Fulva) at the Summer Solstice
June 21, 2007, Austin, TX
Photo: Human Flower Project
Our friend Zelma Mason disparaged them as “railroad lilies.” We’ve since heard a bigger put down: “ditch lily”—which is only slightly kinder than George Bush’s moniker for Karl Rove.
We grew up with Hemerocallis Fulva but never would have called them that. They were “tiger lilies,” and in June would begin reaching along the roadsides all over Kentucky. Moving to Texas, we figured they’d be a cinch to grow, since back east they seemed to carry on fine without anybody’s help, even with Zelma’s disdain.
Lilies for Jimi, Renton, WA
Photo: David Meyer
But that hasn’t been true. We and the Austin chalk and weather ganged up and killed several plants over the years. So when this month—undoubtedly thanks to our wet spring—three tiger lilies bloomed, we were fired up! The photo above was taken just at 1:06 pm, the Summer Solstice, Central Daylight Time.
Tiger lilies also call to mind a marvelous trip we took in 1989, our one and only visit to the Great Northwest. In Seattle, we spent a splendid overcast day with David Meyer, a friend we hadn’t seen in over a decade. Being mutually reinforcing fans of wah-wah blues music, the two of us made a pilgrimage to Renton, a Seattle suburb, to pay our respects to James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix. On the way we stopped at a flower shop, and chose these orange lilies: “Let me Stand Next to Your Fire!”
Jimi Hendrix at Monterey Pop Festival June 18, 1967
Photo: via Jimi Hendrix Biography
Looking at these old photos again, we see that the blooms aren’t Hemerocallis Fulva exactly. They may even be true lilies, not daylilies, but the shape and color are reminiscent of the familiar ditch dwellers. They reminded us of the flames licking up from Jimi’s guitar in the climax of his performance at Monterey. It, too, blossomed nearly at the summer solstice: June 18, 1967. In Renton, we were gratified to discover that his gravestone, quite small for such a musical giant, is carved with a Stratocaster; laid there, our flowers looked fittingly incendiary.
David has gone on to do many things; most recently he’s written a book about another figure in our pop pantheon, Gram Parsons.
And Jimi, though he died September 18, 1970, has gone on too. Like the Hemerocallis Fulva some call invasive, his fire still crackles on a zillion fretboards across the world.