In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
August, 2007
Regional Report

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Enticingly beautiful with an arresting, exotic perfume, this white lily is guaranteed to stop you in your tracks.

Lilies Add Drama to a Summer Garden

The other day I had a garden revelation. I realized I needed more lilies in my life. Not canna lilies, daylilies, calla lilies, magic lilies, or torch lilies, but true, stately lilies. True lilies are members of the genus Lilium and are known for their fragrant, dramatic flowers.

Their height ranges from 2 to 8 feet tall, and flowering times range from mid spring to early fall. I love lilies for their magnificent flowers and their willingness to fill in those lull periods after the iris or peonies bloom or now, when many perennials are fading. Lily flowers offer variety in shape and color. Flowers may be trumpet shaped, open faced, pendulous, erect facing, outward facing, or nodding with recurved petals.

Great Companions
Lilies combine well with most garden flowers. The slender stems can easily rise above their shorter garden companions. The tall varieties may need staking or a supportive companion. Lilies prefer sun with some afternoon shade and moist soils high in organic matter.

Lilies are not as difficult to grow as their reputation suggests. They do require well drained soil. The second rule is lilies require well drained soil and the third rule is well-drained soil. Raised beds or planting in hills may be all that's required for proper drainage.

Also, lily bulbs are more delicate than other bulbs such as tulips. The bulb scales can easily be damaged or dry out. The young shoots are also quite delicate, so tread lightly around the lilies in the spring.

Favorite Varieties
The Royal Horticultural Society and North American Lily Society have developed divisions to help sort out the varieties. Some of the more popular ones include: Asiatic, American, Aurelian, and Oriental.

Asiatic. Flower in early summer at 2 to 5 feet tall with 4- to 6-inch diameter flowers. Colors include red, pinks, oranges, yellows, lavender, and white, with mostly upward-facing flowers. Popular varieties include 'Enchantment' and 'Connecticut King'.

American. Flower times range from late spring to midsummer at 4 to 8 feet tall and 4- to 6-inch-diameter flowers. These are hybrids of North American natives. Flowers have reflexed petals, meaning they curve back. Colors are shades of yellow, orange, and red. Most are two colors and spotted. Many are Bellingham hybrids.

Trumpet/Aurelian. Flower in midsummer at 4 to 5 feet tall. Flowers are downward- or outward-facing trumpets. 'Regale' and 'Golden Splendor' are popular varieties.

Oriental. Flower in late summer at 4 to 5 feet tall with outward- or downward-facing flowers. 'Casa Blanca' and 'Stargazer' are popular varieties. My 'Casa Blanca' is blooming right now with spectacular white flowers and a knock-your-socks-off fragrance.

Lilies have few insects and diseases. Lily mosaic virus or basal bulb rot (caused from planting in poorly drained soil) are probably the most common. Lilies are generally planted in fall, but may be planted in spring using bulbs from quality bulb suppliers. Plant three times the vertical diameter. A 2-inch bulb would have 6 inches of soil above it. Madonna lily is the exception, which only needs a planting depth of 1 to 2 inches.

The North American Lily Society has an interesting Web site (http://www.lilies.org) where you'll find images galore and lots of helpful growing hints.

I hope you'll include a few lilies in your garden so you can appreciate first-hand these spectacular flowers.


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