Franklin Countys First News

The zen of lilies

Bill Moloney stands in front of his lily fields.

FARMINGTON – For some people it’s knitting. Or airplane models. Or maybe it’s repurposing old barn boards into end tables and headboards.

For Bill Moloney, it’s lilies.

“I didn’t do it for anything more than to have an addiction that wasn’t obstructive,” he said.

Moloney has been growing day lilies for the last thirty years. And growing is putting it mildly. He spent years breeding different varieties of the flower- teaching himself how to manually pollinate, track and store the Hemerocallis. He throws around giant, technical terms like rose petals, side dropping precise temperatures or number of days for germination.

A few close ups of Bill's hand pollinated lilies.

The learning curve was a steep one- especially considering this was before YouTube tutorials or a quick google search, not that Moloney would have relied on that anyway. He spent entire winters reading about the plant. He spent entire months carefully collecting pollen, labeling and storing, only to be knocked down again and again by mishap, mistake and mother nature.

Moloney recalls storing bundles of lilies in the gas oven, where the warmth of the pilot light set a perfect temperature, only to have them go up in smoke when someone went to use the oven unknowingly.

“Another year I planted 27,000 seedlings. It took a week a half. As soon as I was done we had the biggest thunderstorm of the year," he said.

When he went out to his fields he found the 27,000 seedlings in disarray, ripped from the soil by the heavy rains.

“It was one of my first zen moments. I realized I had two choices: I could be angry at what had happened, or I could put in another week of effort to recuperate the flowers and not waste the work I had already done,” he said.

So he got to work repairing and replanting the tiny flowers.

While learning the ways of lilies has been difficult other things have come naturally to Moloney, like methodically building rock walls, collecting strangely shaped pieces of drift wood, or floating in his kayak on the Sandy River. Keeping up with his 50 acres of farm land, and a thoroughly aged New England farmhouse, has come easily for Moloney, too. He attributes his capabilities to one small decision more than 30 years ago: getting his electricians license.

"I was smart, but I didn't know how to work," Moloney said, referring to his days before becoming an electrician.

Now Moloney does everything by hand: the rototilling, weeding, planting and mowing, as well as the rock, drift wood and plant collecting, and all the upkeep on his home. The work gives him a focus he said, and represents a piece of him that he will someday pass to his children or grandchildren. Nothing that Moloney makes or grows is sold for a profit. Occasionally he'll trade things with friends, but he prefers to just give them away.

"I really don't know what I'm doing. I'm just a steward. We can't own anything that is alive or beautiful anyway," he said.

Just like the pieces of pottery found on the banks of the Sandy River, or the hundreds of unique rocks that Moloney has collected over time, the zen moments have found their shelf in his life too, and along with them the lessons that have shaped Moloney's days.

"We verify our stories by what we see and what we believe we see, but we need to be more aware. We need to be less controlled by our stories and the narrowness of them. I know this, but I don't know how to employ it," he said. "If you're not a bird watcher, you won't see the bluebirds."

Bill Moloney's many lilies.

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17 Responses »

  1. Awesome Bill, I knew you grew lilies but I didnt realize it was so many. You are such a special soul !

  2. Beautiful flowers and a gardener with a love for life in all its forms....
    Well done, Bill.

  3. Beautiful !! I love flowers and flower gardens do you ever open it for the public to see

  4. WOW!!! Thanks for sharing this story. It is great to hear about the amazing people in our community. Amber, thank you for writing about such a fine individual's passion. Please write more positive, well deserved stories of interest.

  5. Your lilies are as beautiful and spectacular as you Bill.

  6. Awesome!! We talk about Billy’s Lilies as if we know it well. We had no idea. We cannot wait to visit.Wow!!

  7. Good to see youre still doing what you love Bill!

  8. Bill, these are absolutely beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing. I will have to stop by and see them .

    And maybe pick up some tips!


  9. Absolutely beautiful!!

  10. As a daylily grower of only hundreds, I do admire the time, energy and love that you have put into your thousands Truly enjoyed your story
    If I ever get East, I'll be sure to look you up

  11. A wonderful story of such a special person and his lilies. Bill's amazing energy, caring and attention to these "living things" are also his great gifts to the friends, family and community who know him. Thank you, Amber!

  12. Bill! What a great article about your passion. Picture is amazing, but seeing is so much more impressive!
    Amazing place! Amazing guy!

  13. My favorite
    My favorite flower.
    Do you sale them. Would like to know more.
    Pink and white, white and red or blue. And other color com

  14. Such a great article. I was completely relaxed while reading it, i can only imagine the relaxation and pleasure that comes from actually doing it and seeing them bloom. Well told!

  15. What gorgeous lily fields. Thank you for sharing your story, Bill.

  16. Bill, this is beautiful and inspiring!

  17. Positively stunning to see, and one of the nicest people you'll ever meet!