Garden Day: Peck Lilies
The Peck Lilies
by Jarad Johnson
I go to MTSU, and one of the things I’ve always appreciated about it are the plants and trees all over the place, especially on the older parts of campus, where my dorm is located (coincidentally, it strongly resembles an old school mental asylum, not exactly comforting, but a story for another day). There are different types of trees planted everywhere- redbuds, flowering pears, maples and huge cedar trees that look to have been there since the school was built. Of course, the newer side of campus is not as heavily landscaped, though they are making headway.
My favorite place on campus is the courtyard in front of Peck Hall, which is heavily populated by what I believe are walnut trees, which the squirrels love to use as missiles on unsuspecting students and faculty, indicating to me that when the people who planted those trees put tables and benches underneath them, they weren’t exactly thinking things through, or they had a long lasting grudge. Anyway, there’s hyacinths in front of the art building, daffodils all over the place, and two tulip beds in front of my dorm. They’re full of weeds and getting on my nerves, and I may have to spend an hour cleaning that out.
The plants at my school are almost enough to keep my gardening fever at bay (that and regular visits to the greenhouse). The most interesting plants I learned about recently, though, are the Peck Lilies. Peck Hall is where all the English and Literature professors and classes are located. The building is named after Drs. Virginia Peck and Richard C. Peck. Virginia Peck taught a variety of classes in the English department, one of which included Anglo-Saxon literature, which I’ve never seen offered (I’m just saying, guys, you don’t have to teach Shakespeare every single semester. One can only read King Lear so often before starting to root for his daughters).
Virginia Peck was known internationally for hybridizing and cross-breeding daylilies. She had a lab attached to her house to accomplish these hybridizations (which is now my life’s goal, by the way), many of which were named after Arthurian knights. Some of my teachers have them, and I assume many of the faculty do. Best of all, there is a certain prestigious award in the English department, and apparently the student who wins is gifted a Peck Lily. This and only this would be my motivation for winning that prize. We all have our price.
Regardless of whether I win this prize, I am inspired. I shall definitely be gifting myself some daylilies this summer. I hope all our gardening readers find a similar inspiration this spring! Pictures will follow! Be sure to share some of your own.
Jarad is the co-administrator and writer for Sacred Chickens, attends college at MTSU, loves tea and coffee, and tries to spend every spare second reading. He recently developed an interest (some might say obsession) with gardening. Jarad is an English major with a concentration in literature. Bless his heart! Let's all light a candle for him and send him happy thoughts!
1/2/2020 06:06:26 pm
Hello - I'm a former student of Virginia Peck, about whom I was "talking" on Facebook tonight. An MTSU prof, Dr Kevin Smith, had posted a photo of a wild orchid he'd just purchased. He said he'd never had any luck growing them & only knew one person who did. So I informed him that Mrs Peck had grown them. Come to find out that it was daylilies that she hybridized., although I believe she also grew orchids. It was very interesting to me to find your writing about the Pecks and would like to know more.
1/14/2020 07:41:22 pm
Hey Judy! It's so cool that you were a student of Mrs. Pecks! I've always felt like she and I would've gotten along really well. I'm afraid I can't tell you much more than what is in the post. I've been told she had a greenhouse on her property where she hybridized her lillies by hand, and got to name many of the varieties she created! Her naming of the lilies after Arthurian knights is one of my favorite details. I'm in Peck Hall for almost all of my classes (I'm an english major) and I do know that many of my teachers have her lilies in their yards. Also, I met Dr. Smith a few semesters ago, and if I see him this spring I'll ask him about his orchid. They're absolute divas!
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