Carolyn’s Garden: Obsession Daylilies

Yesterday, I visited a garden with 192 varieties of daylilies. Yes, you read that right—192 varieties. The garden belongs to my friend Carolyn Downing. On one-and-a-quarter acres behind her home in Winthrop, she grows this astonishing number of daylilies, which she sells to  flower enthusiasts who visit her gardens. The name of Carolyn’s business is Obsession Daylilies. What a sweet obsession!

Carolyn told me that thirty-six years ago, she started making the garden behind her home, but it was only four years ago that she started devoting a large portion of it to daylilies. There was no organized plan. Instead, there was a passion for plants, and Carolyn’s business sprang from her love of flowers.

Full disclosure: Daylilies are one of my favorite flowers, and when I stood in Carolyn’s backyard, I hardly knew where to look. In mid-July, the daylilies are in glorious bloom, and right now they are about a week away from  their peak. I was dazzled by so many different colors—yellow, red, pink, orange, white, near-black, coral. As Carolyn noted, the only color missing is blue. She also told me that there are a few varieties—red—that do well in part shade. I was oh so happy to hear this, and next spring I’ll be visiting Obsession Daylilies to buy some plants for my gardens.

Here are a few of the splendid daylilies from Carolyn’s garden.

With my wee camera, it is difficult to get the broad sweep of a large garden, but these pictures will at least give you some idea of the loveliness of Obsession Daylilies.

Although Carolyn specializes in daylilies, there are other flowers in her garden, including  liatris, black-eyed Susans, daisies, and poppies. Snappy garden art punctuates the beds, along with trees and hedges.

There is even a frog, with a sign pointing the way to its home.

As I wandered around this place of beauty that was full of fluttering, jumping life—frogs, bees, birds, and butterflies—I thought about how love is at the center of so much creativity, whatever form it might take.

Carolyn’s gardens shine with love, and that love radiates over everything, making this a special place. Blogging friends, if you live in the Winthrop area and have an ardor for flowers, put Obsession Daylilies on your list of gardens to visit.

Carolyn would like you to call first, and her number is 207-377-6316. Although she would be glad to sell you a plant, Carolyn is happy to have people just drop by and look at her amazing garden.

And for folks who are keen on flowers, that’s about as good as it gets.








63 thoughts on “Carolyn’s Garden: Obsession Daylilies”

  1. Oh my, now, that is a gardening friend! As a gardener, the first thing that popped into my head is how does she label the various plants because that is always one of my challenges or maybe should say downfalls. Our local daylily farm is in full swing right now too. Oh, it is tempting.

    1. I’m not sure how she labels them. I will ask. Not labeling is a downfall of mine, too. Tempting is right. The only thing that really saves me is that I like planting in the spring where I can better see what space I have. But I have been thinking about those red daylilies, and she has some short ones that would be perfect for the front of a bed.

  2. Daylilies can be habit-forming-– with all those different colors and shapes, easy to see! You can’t ask for a tougher, easy-to-grow perennial. Love the name ‘Obsession’ very apropos.

  3. Last year I bought some of those beautiful red day lilies from Carolyn. They’re still too young to blossom, but I’m looking forward to seeing them in my side yard!

  4. Aww what an amazing garden Laurie, you can feel the love already from the photographs! The frog has a wonderful pond, the Daylilies look gorgeous and what a treat to have all this beauty nearby 💜

  5. I had no idea that there were that many variety of daylillies. If I had had to guess, I wouldn’t have been even close!
    A business that springs from true love and passion is my definition of a successful occupation. Congratulations to your friend!

  6. Sweet obsession, indeed, Laurie. Thank you for sharing this cornucopia of floral abundance. I don’t think I have ever been in such a lush, colorful garden. I’m a little sad I can’t visit it in person.

  7. What a gorgeous garden. You certainly know how to do lush green soft gardens in Maine, and then add the day lilies! How would you ever choose just one? Thanks for sharing the garden with us, and have a happy week of writing, gardening, and catching up with friends…what could be better?

    1. Traditionally, Maine has been blessed with abundant rainfall and is very lush and green. Alas, that is beginning to change, but we still get enough rain to keep things green and growing. May it stay it that way! But the climate crisis is changing everything so fast that I don’t feel as though we can count on the rain coming the way it once did.

  8. I’m almost afraid to confess this, but daylilies never have appealed to me. Perhaps I just haven’t met the right ones! I will say that the variety of colors and forms in your friend’s garden is appealing. I’ve always assumed that daylilies came in yellow and orange: period. But that clearly isn’t so. Perhaps the yellow and orange naturalize best in our region, since they tend to fill up the ditches. The thought of shorter, red ones is intriguing. I hope you do give them a try.

  9. I also love daylilies, Laurie, but only have a few varieties. What a joy to visit Carolyn’s and enjoy all the colors! Thanks for the tip on the “reds” that don’t mind a little shade. 🙂

  10. I am drooling! The whole garden is lovely and the daylilies spectacular.

  11. What a great find! Daylilies were one of the first flowers we planted when we moved into our house about 8 years ago… but we found ours in the the woods around our house and just transplanted them! They are multiplying beautifully!

    The picture of her garden reminds me of Tasha Tudor’s little cabin. She had amazing gardens!

      1. Yes – they’re the common orange ones that you probably see everywhere! And I think they’re so lovely 🙂

  12. What a treat! You mentioned how love very evidently shines from special (often specialist) plant nurseries. That’s exactly how I feel. The plants may not need much care individually, but to keep so many varieties in tip-top condition takes care. I’m so pleased that Carolyn was able to tell you of one that will be happy in your shade.

  13. These are stunning — and what a great idea, letting people visit and get ideas, as well as purchase plants! Thanks for the intro, Laurie. I’ve never been to Maine, but this sounds like as good an “excuse’ to go as any, ha! I hope you’ll post about your own daylilies when you get some growing.

  14. I am still trying to get my head around that number: 192 varieties in one garden?

    Just looked up the number of daylily cultivars – 35 000!!! another staggering number.

    I think I’m just going to look at your photographs again, just to enjoy the pretty. All these numbers are mind-boggling!

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