Day lilies are easy to take care of. They require a minimum of six hours of sunlight, and if it rains once every week or two, you don’t even have to water them.
The plant’s simplicity, though, is not telling of the work Sue Kramer does to prepare her perennial garden for sales and showing at Kramer Flower Farm. Sue and her husband, Dave Kramer, tend the flower farm at their home located at 3592 Rogers Rd. NW in Cedar Rapids.
Sue spends eight to 10 hours at least five days a week for a little over three months to prepare the day lilies for their best blooms, which happen in June through August — but she doesn’t mind the work.
“I’m a glutton for gardening,” Sue said.
Those hours, she said, are spent planting new rows, experimenting with crossbreeding and plucking dead flower buds off the plant.
Sue and Dave both have landscape architecture degrees from Iowa State University, but some of their gardening techniques have been learned over time, experimenting with what would grow where, and for Sue, which crossbreeds of day lilies will work.
“You go to school and get a degree, but actually learning how to do it is a different story,” Sue said.
In fact, this is the thinking that got her first nursery of day lilies started some 25 years ago.
Teaching in the horticulture department at Kirkwood, Sue wanted a display garden to show her students what she was teaching them in the classroom. This garden still is showcased among other plants on the front lawn.
Now, their largest daylily bed has various rows, some for sale, some for experimenting and some still in the growing stage. The day lilies that are available for purchase have been growing for a couple years, Sue said, which can make it easier for the buyer when compared to buying day lilies to plant for the first time. More than two decades down the road, the day lilies make up about one acre of their three acres of gardens on their 40-year-old property.
The day lilies aren’t the only gardening spectacle on the property. The Kramer’s also have hostas, Baltimore oriole day lilies and other shade plants available.
The couple built their home so that it wouldn’t damage the now more than 150-year-old white oaks that sit in the front lawn — both of their daughters were married underneath one of the trees.
A weepy white pine and evergreens mix in with the other trees. Hostas and other shade plants grow under the trees with frogs, owls, steppingstones and other lawn ornaments scattered throughout the yard.
The trees and gardens create a private atmosphere for their home, despite it being in town.
“We like the outdoors — we have a great reverence for plants and living things,” Dave said.
That reverence is something that’s a part of their lifestyle.
“I enjoy being in touch with the earth,” Sue said.
They want others to have that same feeling. The couple has a mix of buyers and garden enthusiasts touring their gardens.
Even if you aren’t interested in purchasing plants or touring with a garden club, the couple invites people to come out and just look around.
“As far as I’m concerned, anyone can come out and wander through any of this,” Sue said.