Lily enthusiasts make their way to Walkabout Gardens near Nevada

Marlys Barker Nevada
Journal Editor
David Moody of Fort Dodge relaxes on a bench under a tree in the middle of the gardens. Moody loves lilies and gardens, but said June 30 was “too hot” to move around much. Photo by Marlys Barker

The extreme heat on a recent afternoon didn’t stop those on a tour with the North American Lily Society from taking a walk in Walkabout Gardens, located not far from the old Shipley Schoolhouse, southwest of Nevada.

This is the place where Nan Ripley makes a home for herself and her husband, and for all kinds of living things, including a massive amount of lilies.

Some of the approximately 75 people with the tour have been to Walkabout Gardens before. Walkabout Gardens is a popular stop.

Those on the June 30 bus tour were among the hundreds of people who were also attending the 71st annual North American Lily Society Show, hosted by the Iowa Regional Lily Society at The Sheraton in West Des Moines. The show brought in people from all over this country and Canada, and possibly a few other countries.

Lorne Kaban of Alberta, Canada, said he had visited Walkabout Gardens five years ago when he attended a show. When asked how he was dealing with the heat, he smiled. “I’m just making do,” he said. “We’ve been in the 90s, too (in Canada), but we don’t have the same humidity as here.”

Besides the heat, Kaban was noticing lilies like the ones he grows at home and some that he doesn’t. “We have a shorter season and more severe cold (in Canada) … so we grow some different varieties (than what are seen in the Midwest),” he explained. The growing season for him would be May to the end of September, and it’s especially conducive to the Martagon Lily and Asiatics, he said.

“(The Martagon Lily is) past bloom here already,” he noted, pointing to a grouping of plants that no longer had pretty colorful flowers on them.

Kaban said the stop at Walkabout Gardens was the last of four places they had been to that day in the extreme heat. The tour had taken its toll on David Moody of Fort Dodge, who said he loves gardens and belongs to all kinds of garden clubs. “I just enjoy it (gardening),” he said. But of the day of the tour, he said from his seat on a bench in the shade, “It’s too hot.”

Still, Moody was willing to share that he plants a little over 300 lilies each year, and has about 200 growing at this time. “Nothing like what Nan has,” he said. Moody lives on 2.6 acres of land west of Fort Dodge, his place for planting all kinds of flowers and plants. He notes that he loves hostas, too.

Some on the tour have no idea who the master gardener is, as they walk about the gardens, until someone points her out. On this day, Nan was busy serving fresh fruit and cold water to her visitors. She often looked up with a big smile as someone started to tell her they loved something or had been here before. One woman wanted to tell Nan that she still had a complementary lily Nan had given to each person on a tour some years ago.

Tour participants walked about the gardens or sat and listened to the music of the Shipley Pickers — Paul and Ruth Schlotfeldt, Dennis Henderson and Steve Lekwa. Savannah, the Ripley’s calm German Shepherd, watched everyone as she relaxed in the shade. In these “dog days of summer,” she knows better than to try to walk around Walkabout Gardens. She leaves that to the guests.