Above, Matt VanNatta, owner with his wife, Sheila, of Daylily Connection, stands in a field that Monet would have wanted to paint. (C-T photos John Guglielmi)
Above, Matt VanNatta, owner with his wife, Sheila, of Daylily Connection, stands in a field that Monet would have wanted to paint. (C-T photos John Guglielmi)

Randy Rendfeld, Courier Times Editor

FALMOUTH - It's the kind of place that makes drivers slam on the brakes. An acre of flowers comes alive in mid-summer at Daylily Connection with colors Claude Monet would have painted.

Matt and Sheila VanNatta have farmed for about 30 years at 6338 E. Road 900N, Falmouth. A few years ago, they began thinking of ways to diversify and grow some different types of crops. Sheila remembers reading about a tobacco farmer in Kentucky who switched his focus to daylilies. Then three years ago, the VanNattas planted 30,000 of the summer bloomers by hand.

"Our farming friends thought we were insane," she recalls. "They had no idea what we were planting."

Since then, farm organizations have contacted the VanNattas and asked them to speak to groups about diversification.

In 2006, Daylily Connection opened to the public. This year, with hardly any rain, the VanNattas' plants are still putting on a show. It's a tribute to this plant's tough, trouble-free reputation. Pests and diseases rarely afflict them.

The VanNattas' daylilies get no protection in winter. This spring was freakishly cold, and Sheila recalled that at times the chilling weather made the daylilies look "like mush." The plants aren't irrigated, nor mulched. But right now in mid-summer they just keep on blooming. However, Sheila admits that a lot of her time seems to be spent on weeding.

Now the business has a Web site (www.daylilyconnection.com), and it's shipping orders as far away as Canada.

"People are driving here from all over the Midwest," Sheila said. She adds that some organizations, such as a quilting club, have asked recently if they could hold their meetings at Daylily Connection.

The VanNattas now have more than 50,000 plants in the ground. They plan on adding 150 new varieties every year.

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