Mark Carpenter of The Lily Farm Shares Beauty at TAGHS March Meeting

Mark CarpenterMarch 30, 2016 - In ten seconds, where is the largest daylily farm in the southern United States? (No using Google!) If you answered Shelby County, Texas, you get an “A” because many life-long residents of our county are unaware of that fact. Located on four acres off Highway 7, west of Center, The Lily Farm has been in business for thirty years.

Speaking to members of the Timpson Area Genealogical and Heritage Society at their March meeting, current owner of The Lily Farm, Mark Carpenter, told how he first became fascinated with daylilies when he visted The Lily Farm in his youth. The farm was started by Mark's uncle, Jack Carpenter, who Mark says is one of the top ten daylily experts in the country. Jack's primary interest was the hybridization of daylilies and creation of very rare “top end” daylilies. Over the next few decades, Mark had a business career, family, and lived in several cities, but his love of daylilies and his uncle's farm endured. Finally, when his uncle decided to retire and sell the farm a few years ago, Mark became the new owner.

Jack Carpenter started The Lily Farm with five hybrid daylilies. Today Mark has over 15,000 plants, with 15 or 20 of them “really special” he says. Whereas Jack was only interested in “high end” daylilies, Mark has expanded The Lily Farm's offerings to include more common, yet beautiful, varieties which are affordable to most customers. By contrast, the rare varieties sell for upwards of $150 a plant. The Lily Farm does not wholesale and all customers are welcome. Mark says they like visitors. They get more customers from Shreveport and Tyler than anywhere else, and occasionally have tour busses come in from other states. “The average customer age is between 55 and 80,” Mark says. He hopes younger people who visit will “catch the daylily bug”. 

Two of The Lily Farm's four acres are under “shade houses' to protect the plants from hail damage. A bad hailstorm is a disaster. Another threat to the plants is wild hogs. “If hogs were able to get through the fence they could destroy all of our work overnight,” he says. So far, that hasn't happened. The farm has only two employees, Mark and Jose Morales, the foreman, without whom Mark adds “the farm could not exist”. Mark says he and Jose spend a lot of time on their knees, since all cultivation must be done by hand. The farm doesn't have a set calendar since everything is controlled by the lilies themselves. They bloom when they bloom and the farm is open seven days a week during the blooming season. In addition to daylilies, the farm now has a nursery and offers blueberry bushes, sword palms, knockout roses, and camillias. “Since we sell directly to the public, our prices are much lower than 'big box' stores” he revealed.

At the end of his talk, Mark offered several varieties of daylilies to those present for purchase at special “TAGHS Meeting” prices. As members milled around the boxes of daylily “clumps”, making their selections, Mark advised members that when set before Mothers Day, daylilies will bloom for four weeks. “Daylilies are pretty hardy” Mark told purchasers “but they prefer morning sun and afternoon shade”. At the conclusion of his presentation, Mark generously gave the unsold daylily clumps to TAGHS, all of which were promptly bought by member Margie Holt.

TAGHS meets at 2pm on the third Wednesday of each month in the Meeting Room of the Timpson Public Library, located on the corner of Austin and Bremond streets. The public is invited.