Garner: Community

In Bloom: Garner farm churns out lilies

About 1,100 varieties of lilies grow on retired horticulturist Noel Weston's Garner day lily farm.
About 1,100 varieties of lilies grow on retired horticulturist Noel Weston's Garner day lily farm.

Noel Weston spends his retirement basically doing, well, the same thing he did before he retired.

The former City of Raleigh horticulturist maintains a roughly six-acre lily farm on Benson Road in Garner, and in June and July most of the flowers are in full bloom.

“I don’t like inside work. I’d sit at a computer for two hours and I’m beat,” Weston said during a brief break from trimming some of the plants, light sweat on his brow on an 80-degree day.

The Garner native lives in Apex but grows 1,100 varieties of day lilies and a scattering of other plants on the Garner property, which consists of a total of more than 15 acres. By Weston’s own estimates he spends more of his waking hours in Garner than he does at home.

“This is a retirement thing. I noticed that most people that retire and do nothing are dead in less than three years,” he said. “Those that stay busy longer, last longer. But not necessarily.”

He does sell his plants, but estimates that he might roughly break even if he didn’t count his own labor or his wife’s. And even that is largely thanks to reduced property taxes on the land since it’s used for farming.

Weston, whose mother taught school and whose father built houses, grew up in Garner and attended Garner High School. Later he majored in horticulture at North Carolina State, and said he’s been growing lilies for 45 or 50 years. Working for Raleigh he put in the lilies at Pullen Park, and he said he doesn’t know if the state copied his ideas there for their highway, but they did use them on some highways.

“I don’t know if that’s true, but that was the order,” he said.

His father had owned the land, but Weston built up the farm “from scratch.”

His daughter also works with plant life, and puts together Christmas wreaths for a living.

Weston doesn’t have a favorite type of lily; he likes different ones for different reasons. They bloom anywhere from April to November, though mostly in the summer. When they’re not in season he lays mulch and works on keeping deer from snacking on the flowers. And while lilies have a reputation for being a tough plant to kill and easy to grow, he said that’s not always the case.

“Anybody that says all day lilies are tough doesn’t have a clue,” he said.