There are rose people and there are orchid people.
And then there are daylily people.
Like their brethren, daylily people are obsessed with their flower, devoted to it, a slave to it.
Daylily people grow 60 varieties and yearn for 100, or they tend 500 varieties and aim for 1,000.
They go to auctions, they trade on the Internet, they order from Florida, and they pay hundreds of dollars for a single flower.
They breed daylilies, tending thousands of delicate seedlings in a quest for the ultimate show-stopping blossom, and then cast the ordinary ones in a compost pile.
Daylily people visit other people's daylily gardens, and they entertain busloads of daylily people in their own.
They will sell you a plant you covet right out of the dirt in front of you, but they aren't interested in making money. They just want to buy more daylilies.
Daylily people belong to clubs that have meetings where members trade daylilies. They put out newsletters and they raise money -- to buy more daylilies.
Daylily people never tire of their flowers. Daylily people never have enough of daylilies. Perhaps because each flower only lasts a day.
Marie Skelley is a daylily person. Has been for about 15 years. Retired now, she can devote herself to the hundreds of daylilies on her two-acre wooded lot in Carroll County.
"I work my way around the yard, and by the time I am done, it is time to start all over again," she says, hands on hips in a gesture somewhere between fatigue and determination.
Skelley is up against a deadline. It is just days until daylily season starts with an explosion of color from the 650 varieties she has planted in graceful and perfectly manicured flower beds the length and breadth of her yard.
The end of June and all of July bring hundreds of tourists and other daylily people to her home, Cherokee Gardens, in Westminster. Busloads arrive by appointment to marvel at her handiwork and to buy, because Marie Skelley is known to have the newest of the more than 40,000 registered cultivars.
"I only sell so I can support my habit," says Skelley, who has been known to pay $250 for a new breed.
Her husband, Jerry Betzler, is into daylilies, too. And it happened to him the same way it happened to his wife.
"I'd have sooner had my nails pulled out than go on a garden tour with a bunch of women in flowered hats," says Betzler. "I said I'd go - one time- and I was hooked."
"I thought I would just use him to dig holes," says Skelley. But soon, Betzler was crossbreeding daylilies and nursing seedlings by the hundreds, in a quest for the blossom that would merit registering with the American Hemerocallis Society.
"She created her own monster," he says.
Her husband is still employed and his job as a salesman allows him to deliver the daylilies Skelley sells, but it is clear he envies her freedom to garden.
She works from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., in the company of her German shepherd, Yeager, and sometimes she will go out again after dinner, too. It takes her three hours just to snap off the gooey fingers of flowers that have come to the end of their day.
And a day is all the longer daylily blossoms last. Hemerocallis, the genus name, is loosely translated from the Greek to mean "beautiful for a day."
"Every morning, I take my cup of coffee and go out and see what's in bloom," Skelley says.
Daylilies may be the perfect perennial - in fact, that's the title of a book about daylilies. The reason? They are almost impossible to kill. They seem to be impervious to insects, disease, drought, neglect and the occasional dog. Deer don't usually eat the foliage and voles don't devour the bulbs. And each stem might produce two dozen flowers.
"They are the beginning gardener's answer to a prayer," says Sydney Eddison, a contributor to Fine Garden magazine.
"No matter how dreadful you are to them, they will survive. And they will reward even the most clumsy efforts," says Eddison.
"And there is something about the very fact that every single day is new," says the author of "A Passion for Daylilies: The Flowers and The People," a book now out of print.
There is something magical about a flower that never fades into old age. Eddison celebrates this brevity every July by inviting friends into her garden to admire the flowers at their peak.
"We knock back a little wine, and then I enlist everyone to help me deadhead," says Eddison. "Except that we call it `breaking bloom.' "
According to botanical history, all daylilies are probably the offspring of the Adam and Eve of the species: Hemerocallis fulva and Hemerocallis flava, the orange and yellow flowers so often seen growing wild.
Daylilies originated in China, where they were used for primarily in cooking and medicine. You can still purchase a daylily recipe book (See sidebar), but modern pharmaceuticals have supplanted its role in an anti-nausea potion.
Daylilies came to this country from Europe and took to the New World so readily that they became known as "roadside lilies," or "ditch lilies."