Nancy Wolff – Gaga for lilies

Published 10:00 pm Friday, July 11, 2014

On the Cover: Nance also raises goats to provide natural invasive weed control, for companionship, and (from some) Angora hair. Here, Nance is holding Yoda, one of her dozen or so prized goats. 

On the Cover: Nance also raises goats to provide natural invasive weed control, for companionship, and (from some) Angora hair. Here, Nance is holding Yoda, one of her dozen or so prized goats.

Nance Wolff loves day lilies. In fact, she loves them over three thousand ways. That’s how many varieties she’s created and now displays at Gaga Gardens in Green Creek
Gaga Gardens (Not named for musical performer Lada Gaga– Gaga is a traditional term for grandmother; the gardens are named for Wolff’s grandmother) is a four and one-half acre riot of day lilies, goats, chickens, a pair of strutting tom turkeys, outdoor rooms based on different themes, and more fun than anyone can imagine.
Wolff, who began collecting day lilies when she was in her twenties, hails from Atlanta (Here, she notes, “I traded in my bar shoes for my barn shoes, and it’s much better company.”), where she was an artist and landscaper. When she moved to Polk County, Wolff brought many varieties of day lilies with her. Here, she continuously cross-breeds an endless stream of variations.
Day lily collectors are among the stream of visitors to Wolff’s creations. Orchids, Wolff noted, comprise the most collected group of plants, with day lilies next. Not long after she moved to Green Creek, both her mother and her husband passed away, but parts of both remain in much of the Gaga scene.
One spot, a memorial garden dedicated to all those whom Wolff has loved, is playfully named the Taj May’all, “That’s the Southern version of the Taj Mahal,” she laughed.
Another section, a Mexican garden, carries the name “Margaritaville.” Each section contains a gate made from an old metal bed headboard. One section is adorned by a collection of rusted tools, which Wolff’s late husband had collected.
Wolff was inspired by her grandmother, who also created separate “rooms in her garden, but those earlier creations, Wolff noted, were not nearly so whimsical. Wolff fondly remembers her grandmother, who grew many roses, and who “used to bribe my teachers with baskets of roses.” Her grandmother also founded the Atlanta Symphony.
Wolff is ecstatic about trading Atlanta for Polk County. “I love it here,” Wolff gushed recently. It’s always something wonderful here. It’s so beautiful here. To me, it’s paradise.” Paradise includes a small flock of goats, who grace the property “because they’re just wonderful,” Wolff remarked. To Wolff, goats “are some of the coolest animals in the world. You’ve never known love until you’ve held a baby goat.” She calls goats “nature’s landscapers,” feeding them weeds, and lily blossoms that have made way for others. “I’m trying to make the world love goats,” she remarked as she held Yoda, a young, friendly, almost puppy-like goat. At the gardens, Wolff has learned to felt with hair from her Angora goats (which are among the varieties residing there).
In addition to boasting thousands of varieties of day lilies, a tour of whimsically-styled enclosures, and interesting livestock, Gaga Gardens also hosts musical performances by the whimsically-named group Trophy Husbands, at parties.
Living in the paradise that constitutes that corner of Polk County, must inspire Wolff, who also grows herbs, makes teas, creates raku (Japanese pottery) pieces, grows potted vegetables, and is a tile artist. With a riot of colors to greet her each day, Wolff notes, “Every morning in June and July is Christmas for me. What’s amazing is waking up in the morning, and seeing flowers.”
Garden club members regularly visit Wolff’s displays. Cross-pollenating and seeding result in new varieties of day lilies, each taking two or three years to appear. Wolff plans to begin a company called “Blooming Souls,” where she will sell individual day lily plants, each registered to the person who purchases the plant, or for whom it’s purchased. It’s more personal than the better-known star registry. Unlike stars, many light-years distant, day lilies can be held close and grown with love.
While many day lilies can be cross-pollinated to create new varieties, the two basic types of day lilies– diploids (containing twenty-two chromosomes), and tetraploids (containing forty-four) can not be interbred. “The tetraploid has taken over the day lily world,” Wolff observed. “I see massive beauty in both,” she said.
“To create a flower, Wolff continued, “is the most fascinating thing in the world. To think that they came from the orange lilies along the road . . . When you see it open, it’s so rewarding.”
Those interested in vivid and unusual day lilies may purchase them at Gaga Gardens (828 863 2956).


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