One Square Mile: Jungle Paradise

Jungle Paradise
Photograph by Dustin Chambers

Jungle Paradise | Dawsonville | 56 miles north of Atlanta

This is her favorite time of day, her favorite time of year, when the new flowers blossom for the first time. No one has seen daylilies like these before, not even their caretaker, Suzanne Franklin, who walks through the garden with the pride of a mother and the wonder of a child. “Oh my gosh,” she says. “This is a pretty one. Look at that baby!” But the admiration soon turns to cold-eyed appraisal. Franklin is running a business, after all. She breeds her hybrid lilies with particular goals in mind, and only the most successful experiments go to her crossing bed for further propagation. They could sell for more than $100 each. The others are removed from the gene pool and given away. She wants to see large blossoms, ruffled edges, high bud count, resistance to cold, a glorious contrast of colors. And if the flower is somehow exceptional, she just might give it a name. There is an art to naming a lily. Other hybridizers try to be funny, suggestive, subversive, or perhaps romantic, but Franklin has her own priorities. Several years ago, in the car on the way to Florida, she asked her husband and sons for help with a backlog of more than 250 nameless varieties. “I want it to be something that glorifies God,” she said. So were born His Tenderness, His Resurrection, His Sacrifice, His White Horse, His Sparkling Glory, His Sunshine, and many other tributes to divinity. And even though Franklin loves all her flowers, she must also be their judge. Now, she stops to examine a lily of dusty complexion: not quite burgundy, no ruffle, no etched eye, no treasured flecks of gold on the petals. “This is not a pretty one,” she says, “so it goes away.” She moves on to a seven-inch red blossom with white edges and ruffles. Too many ruffles. Franklin pauses, considering its fate. “I don’t care,” she finally says. “I’m keeping it.”

This article originally appeared in our August 2015 issue.