Fall is perfect for thinking ahead and planting bulbs. But don't forget lilies - Thea
“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Luke 12:27
You might get a hint from this well-known bible verse that lilies are not very hard to grow, and you would be right. They take up very little space and can be tucked into many small spots in a mature garden. They can be grown as singles or in groups. They come in white and all the hot and warm colors, from reds through oranges to yellows, almost any shade of pink, and vibrant purples. They come in short, medium and tall varieties, as well as early, mid-season and late bloomers. And, of course, the later bloomers have matchless fragrance.
It’s not possible to do justice to these beautiful bulbs in a short article, but I will write about a few of my favorites. Asiatic lilies make a beautiful show in early June and while not fragrant, are especially welcome after the azaleas and tulips have faded. They are striking grouped together in the garden. Breeders have been busy introducing many short, variates, some just about a foot tall.
A relatively new type of liliy, the LA hybrids, bloom next. These are vigorous plants that make a strong show and fill the gap between the Asiatics and the orientals. Some years ago my husband, Charlie, brought home three white LA hybrid bulbs. We now have three strong clumps and need to divide them again this fall. They are among my very favorite flowers. As you can see from the group of LA hybrid lilies pictured below, the white ones stand out beautifully and give a cool effect as the weather heats up.
Perhaps my very favorite lily is the regal lily, discovered in China in 1910 by E. H. Wilson.
Last to bloom are the fragrant oriental lilies. We are all familiar with the pristine white ‘Casa Blanca’ and the deep pink ‘Star Gazer’, but there are dozens of others worth trying. There are a number of relatively new hybrid double oriental lilies that are exquisitely beautiful and powerfully fragrant, as pictured below left. These are exceptional plants and deserve a space along a walkway where they can be best appreciated. They may need to be staked, but you can purchase curved stakes that will make the job easy. They are also perfect for along a fence.
Lilies are easy to grow. They will grow in full sun, but are happier with a bit of shade where their colors show to best advantage. Lilies like to have their roots cool and moist, so if not shaded by other plants, they will need to be mulched. They are hungry plants and need to be fertilized every couple of weeks with a high potassium fertilizer from early spring until about six weeks after they have bloomed. Do not cut them back to the ground after the blooms fade or the bulbs will not be able to store enough energy to bloom next year. You can trim the stems back by about one third. Unlike tulip and daffodil foliage, spent lily stems are not a garden eye sore. They just blend in with other foliage.
It’s not too late to plant lilies for next year, as long as they are in the ground before the first frost. There are a number of good catalog sources for lilies: Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in
Virginia, B & D Lilies in Washington, and John Scheepers, the retail arm of the Dutch grower, Van Engelen, are among the best.
Picture credits & sources: Nat’l. Gardening Assn. Learning Library, Plant Database, Lily; www.garden.org www.Learn2Grow.com website; https://fairegarden.wordpress.com ; http://www.coolgarden.me/scented-summer-gardens-1333 website; Van Engelen, Inc.https://www.vanengelen.com; https://www.johnscheepers.com
Christine Wegman is a Rock Spring Garden Club member in National Capital Area Garden Clubs' District III. She is one of the go-to 'hort' experts in her club. Christine and her husband, Charlie Flicker, are avid and generous gardeners and have cultivated a delightful garden (for any season) in Arlington, Virginia.