By Richard E. Peck

Amaryllis for sale at a grocery store in Kapa‘a. Photo by Léo Azambuja

Amaryllis for sale at a grocery store in Kapa‘a. Photo by Léo Azambuja

We should have been suspicious when the daylily named Little Grapette was taller than any rose bush in our garden. In catalogues, it’s a foot all, pleasantly purple but not rich, royal and velvety. We’d grown a winner! Something was going on.

These were Mainland Daylilies, not “Hawaiian Daylilies” (sometimes called Naked Ladies) or Amaryllis.

There are secrets to earning neighbors’ garden-envy. A pinch of sugar in the sand when you plant bulbs can encourage rooting. Weekly spraying with liquid tomato fertilizer brightens the blossoms. Clumps of cat-hair in pantyhose pouches laid between the rows discourage hungry rabbits. And chili peppers stuffed with tobacco (chili rellenos con snuff) work when cat hair won’t. If you see a wheezing rabbit with runny eyes, fleeing the garden, you’ll know where he’s been … and won’t go again.

My wife’s most effective stratagem contradicts familiar practices. Some gardeners croon lullabies to their seedlings. My wife doesn’t plead; she gives orders! She sits on a stool, mid-garden, cranks up a chainsaw, and threatens the young plants with the waving saw, “Grow, or else!” The tender shoots cringe away from her vehemence and stretch taller in self-defense

She’s patched a bucket into the garden drip system and fills it daily to feed Miracle-Gro to the base of each plant. Plants send out hungry tendrils seeking the source of nutrition. (We hack back the tangle with machetes). Both her thumbs are emerald green. But even she couldn’t explain the 12-foot circular patch of waist-high miniatures at the foot of the garden.

Miniature daylilies should be … well … miniature. Ours cast deep shade over the tomato plants. Their thick spreading roots have broken through the asphalt driveway and hoisted the railroad ties bordering the garden walk.

Richard E. Peck

Richard E. Peck

Horticulturists are everywhere. We sought help. Everyone had an answer. All wrong.

Until our downwind neighbor poked his head over the wall. His explanation was muffled behind his gas mask but clear enough. The sequence is simple: indoor plumbing leads to an outdoor clay pipe, to a leaking septic tank, to the saturated leach field, to cultivars reaching for the sun, partly to escape the redolent, sodden earth.

Erma Bombeck was right. Everything is greener over the septic tank.

We’ve discussed having the problem fixed … but not until after next summer’s Daylily Show. By then, a six-inch mini named Micro Dots in our garden should be six feet tall, with blossoms the size of steak platters!

  • Richard E. Peck is a part-time Kaua‘i resident and a retired president of three universities. He has written numerous books, plays, columns and TV shows, and his work can be seen at