Traveler: Daylily Farm In Michigan

A lily farm comes abloom in the spring.
The scientific term for “daylily” in Greek is derived from two words, beauty and day. There’s no better way to describe a jaunt to Betsie River Centennial Lily Farm in Benzie County, Michigan. The backroads flower patch has more than 1,000 exotic blooms, including exclusive species created by farm owner Dianna Rau, a certified hybridizer and advanced master gardener. She has registered around 40 original varieties. Sometimes she doesn’t even know what a flower will look like until it grows.

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The famous Interlochen Center for the Arts is in the area, and summer-campers perform excellent free recitals nearly every day in a gorgeous lakeside setting.

Thompsonville is also home to Crystal Mountain, a resort with lodge rooms and condos. Take a ride on the Alpine Slide.


[/sidenote]Visitors to Betsie River wander numbered rows of lily plants with a binder to record their favorite color combinations, then tell Rau what they’d like to take home—perhaps a yellow-and-blush-pink “Kiddie Caper” or a large magenta “Betsie River Troy David.” Betsie River doesn’t ship or sell wholesale—these flowers are available only at the farm. Growing zones are irrelevant; lilies are hardy, and if they grow in the sandy soil on Rau’s fourth-generation family farm, they’ll do fine about anywhere. The perennials will transplant well to Indiana if the roots are wrapped in a moist paper towel for a few days in transit.

The farm opens for the season on May 15. Located about 30 miles south of Traverse City and close to U.S. 31, it’s also a convenient stop on the way to or from a lake house. Plan to spend a couple of hours—the lush-green setting is hard to leave. Rau’s pets lounge in the shade, an antique corn crib is now a gazebo where visitors can wait for Rau to dig up their orders, and artwork from her husband and others is scattered around, including a glass forest comprised of wine-bottle trees. Rau is a ready conversationalist, especially if you want to talk shop—plant sex, as they call it. “It takes three years from the time of hybridizing to see the first bloom,” she says. “When we are running around with big smiles on our faces and appear to be nuts, it’s because we just saw a flower for the first time.”