In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
June, 2011
Regional Report

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Lilies in clay pots can accent places in the garden where other plants won't grow.

Lilies - The Trumpets of the Summer Garden

There are many bulbs that herald in spring to awaken the garden, including daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, and irises. As summer approaches, it's lilies that step onto the garden stage, trumpeting with abundant color, fragrance, and form. The blooms are displayed up above lower companion plants or ground covers.

As a child, I grew lilies as the royal subjects in the flower garden. The fragrant, white blossoms of the regal lilies filled the evening air with a sweet fragrance. While many other garden plants are wilting in the heat of summer, lilies will stand tall and stately. Blooms bask in the Rocky Mountain sunlight as they dangle from sturdy stems as delicately as raindrops. The diversity of sizes, shapes, colors, and types are sure to entice you to try some in your garden.

Some lilies are easier than others, some bloom early, others flower later, and some need full sun while others prefer partial shade. Select the right types to suit your growing conditions. You can choose from Asiatic, Martagon, Candidum, American, Longiflorum, Trumpet and Aurelian hybrids, Oriental and various other hybrids.

Lilies (Lilium spp.) are true bulbs and are a great addition when planted in borders, among other perennials and shrubs, and in large containers. If you've had difficulty growing them in your garden, try large pots that allow you to store them safely for winter.

They are among the oldest garden plants, cultivated some 3,500 years ago. Lilies are native to the temperate zones across the Northern Hemisphere, from the mountains of Japan to California's bogs. Ancient civilizations raised lilies for food, cosmetics, medicine, and ceremonies. Medieval monks grew lilies in their gardens and were a popular symbol of purity and innocence in artworks both religious and secular.

Though they may look fragile, lilies are easy to grow as long as the soil is well drained. They make excellent container plants for the patio or deck. Just avoid locations that are too wet and avoid exposures that radiate extreme summer heat as the blossoms fade more quickly. Most lilies will do best if other low-growing plants are planted around them. This allows the tall blooming stems to push up towards the sunlight and highlight the garden. Dappled shade from trees and shrubs will also serve as a hospitable site for cultivating lilies.

I prefer to grow most of my lilies with annuals in containers since my soil is clay. It allows me to put them on display in areas that lack color and interest. They work nicely around the base of ponderosa pines or under the canopy of the old oak tree. Once you're hooked on growing them, you can easily overspend on lily bulbs alone.


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