Lily Love Affair
A love affair with Lily has been rekindled in my garden.
There is such a variety of types, sizes and colours that I can have Lilies in bloom for most of the summer. I have learned to live with the Red Lily Beetle Lilocerum lilii
. I kill as many of them as I can and for revenge the few that I miss put enough holes in my leaves to make it difficult to win any awards at flower shows but never enough to stop me from appreciating them in my garden. These dastardly demons showed up in my garden about three years ago and almost wiped out my Lilies before I discovered them and learned to deal with them. Now I am happily expanding my Lily collection again. My timing is excellent, as the Lily breeders are rapidly producing wonderful new cultivars.
How Do I Buy Them? Lilies grow from bulbs that consist of several layers of thick scales. They are available in garden store racks and from a variety of specialty mail order nurseries. As the bulbs are live plant parts they don’t like crossing the American / Canadian border without a lot of expensive paper work. Luckily there are several good Lily suppliers on both sides to order from. Most retail outlets will have them for sale in the spring but as they are harvested in the autumn it can be better to plant them then and the mail order / internet suppliers will happily ship them at that time. Typically the mail order suppliers will have a much larger range of colours and types than you will find on the bulb rack at your garden centre or big box store. As in many other things, size matters. The bigger the bulb the bigger the plant and the larger the number of blooms that it will produce. This fact often makes it difficult to comparison shop between various suppliers but if they are reputable you can usually assume that a higher price will get you a bigger bulb.
Different types? Of course there are. A good Lily garden will have a range of these types so that you get a variety of sizes shapes and most importantly, bloom times. There are four main types, three of which we use as garden subjects. The hybridizers have spent the last few years creating wonderful crosses between these four groups . By planting a selection of all of these you can have Lilies flowering in your garden for most of the summer.
Early Bloomers The first to bloom are the the Asiatics. in late June.
Mid season. They are followed by the tallest growing Lilies the the Trumpet types. Their name adequately describes the flowers but gives no hint of their wonderfully tall growth pattern.
Late Bloomers The last group to bloom are the Orientals. These are the magnificent blooms that command such high prices at your local florist and are well worth the effort required to grow them.
The Other One? The fourth type are the white flowered Longiflorum which we in N. America know as the Easter Lily. It is rarely planted as a garden specimen but it has been widely used in some of the recent breeding programs.
Any Others? There are several other less well known types of Lilies such as the Martagons or the Lily pumilium pictured in a rock garden, that can be excellent garden plants for those who have mastered the easier other types and are prepared to go out searching for the more esoteric ones. Enjoy and appreciate all of these stately queens of the garden and remember that they all carry a huge load of colourful pollen that readily stains your hands and clothes if you try to get too, up close and personal, with them. Brush it off dry; do not wet it or it will be yours forever.
New Hybrids Trying to follow all these new hybrids is like trying to read a bowl of alphabet soup. There are OT’s and LA’s and LO’s and now even some crosses between these new groups.
The OT’s are a cross between Orientals and the Trumpets and have been stuck with the rather awkward name of Orienpets in the gardening world.
The LA hybrids have nothing to do with the city of Los Angeles but rather are a cross between the Longiflorum and Asiatic types.
The continuing alphabet soup next gives us the LO’s, obviously a cross between the Longiflorum and the Orientals.
Whatever the names and types, just choose ones that you like and try to have enough variety so that you have Lilies in bloom from mid June to late summer. They appreciate close to a full day’s sun and need a well drained fertile soil. They grow in a variety of locations in my garden and seem to thrive wherever I put them.
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