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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Lilies - Part I ---Early bloomers

                                                                    Anonymous  hybrid

                                                  Anon.  beauty from Big Box   "Maud"

Lily  Delirium. Got totally carried away with lilies this year when a bag of 10 lilies for $9.99 from one of the big box stores turned out to be amazingly easy to grow. Now have been bitten by the lily passion, which is possibly incurable. Fortunatelyy Lilies are a commercial crop in this area which means they are not too demanding .

 It was the  lily with the wine-colored  (Maud) pattern that really hooked me--it smells both spicy and sweet like a poet's dream* of Ideal Woman. It got the sweet scent  from an Trumpet ancestor and the spicy from an Oriental.
Culture was very simple. All 10 are happily growing in a north facing raised bed which gets morning sun and a little weak late afternoon sun. Only thing I really knew about growing lilies was "keep the roots cool, but be sure they have good drainage "

Lilies were heavily mulched with rabbit litter from the admirable BoBo San . Ran a soaker hose around the lot. Watered rarely.

Soon punch drunk trying to sort out  lily types --- decided the only way to sort them out was by the blooming season.The species and hybrids are entangled beyond the reach of reason. Sooooo....

Early Bloomers- in So Cal depends a lot on the lily itself as some appear in 90 days, most take a little longer. Mine were planted late (Jan) and began blooming in late June

Asiatic lilies bloom first--generally.Plant them in the fall for earliest flowers.
 They look like this in  in all colors. Upward facing. Often scentless . Undemanding. These are the lilies to grow if you are allergic to scent.There's  a group called LA hybrids that bloom a little later.

Asiatic lilies

LA hybrid, Bright Diamond

Then comes the Turk's Cap lily (L. Martagon)  native to the Balkans, all the way to Russia. There's also a native Turk's Cap indigenous to Connecticut.
                                                                           Lilium Martagon

      Native -. Turk's Cap,  L. superbum
What's confusing about these lilies is that they so closely resemble the famous Tiger Lily (L. lanciflolium) which comes from the Far East.It however, blooms later.The native lily has a green throat.

Mid- Spring "Easter Lilies", Madonna lilies (L. candidum) is a lily whose artistic history may  outrun its performance in SoCal. . L. candidum is subject to virus.On the other hand, it's tough and drought resistant, but lacks the sumptuous quality of the later hybrids.. It was popular in paintings of the Virgin Mary during the High renaissance.

                                                           L. candidum

Sebastiano Mairardi 16th c.

Next to bloom* are hybrids between Asiatics and L longiflorum ..Asiatic lilies have been successfully hybridized and there are numberless hybrids. Lilies are not difficult to hybridize and can be grown from seed. **

 Trumpet lilies                              Lily longiflorum and it's hybrids

This is the one you see sold at Easter in pots at the grocery store. Bring one home and plant it. it'll do fine if you give it the right  conditions. They multiply easily. This lily is also called Bermuda Lily as it was once a big commercial crop on the island.  Longiflorum actually comes from the mountains of Japan  and was collected by "Chinese "  (E.H. ) Wilson c. 1904 and sent back to Kew. This lily and its hybrids are "florist's lilies" and grown in hothouses in other parts of the world. It can flower in 6 months from seed. Even in SoCal you'd have to start it indoors to accomplish that.It's "forced" for Easter

Trumpet lilies
Lilium regale
                              Wilson's L. regale
Wilson was another of the plant explorers whose determination and daring brought plant materials from China at a time when the Chinese were enraged  (after the Opium Wars) and not allowing foreigners to roam around in  China at all. Both Wilson and the legendary Robert Fortune disguised themselves as Chinese merchants in order to penetrate the country markets where each successfully obtained an astonishing variety of plant materials, lilies among them. What is most remarkable of all in this is neither man looked at all Asian--- both were Scots--- and the Chinese plant collectors they dealt with must have had a pretty good idea that neither man was Han. Perhaps they were taken for opium sellers? 

L. regale hybrid 

Another of Wilson's spectacular lily finds was L leucanhum from which a mind boggling number of hybrids have been bred. It can grow to 8 feet.                               

           Black Dragon L.leucanthum v. centifolia  (species, not a hybrid) This is an easy lily to grow in SoCal. Not necessarily "garden persistent" .

                                                          Wilson's drawing c. 1904

Copper Crown hybrid
Aurelean  Hybrids another huge category of trumpet  hybrids  crosses from l. henryi .which gives the gold color to its children

This one is African Queen

Flugel Horn Aurelean hybrids

Any of these lilies can be planted in the fall or winter of early spring  in SoCal..The earlier you plant,the sooner the lilies will come up? Maybe. Hybrid lilies have their own schedules..Bulb merchants begin shipping fresh bulbs in October.

Do not be confused between Asiatic and Oriental.In lily breeder speak the words do not mean the same thing. Orientals are covered next. They are the last group to bloom.

Coming up next: Lilies II- Mid season Lilies- Tiger lilies, and their kin and Orientals.


* Tennyson's Maud maybe?
** See Beverly Nichols wonderful account of growing lilies from seed in Merry Hall.   Re-issued in the 1935 facsimile edition

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