Monday, December 19, 2011

Lily Review - Latest to Bloom - Lilium speciosum

Late July Aurelians  in a corner of the garden.
Mainstream "Lily Season" is Late June to early August in most areas of the USA and after a summer of these lovely ladies with their sweet perfume in the garden, it can be a sad day when the last blossom finally fades away.

Hybridizers work fast and furious on producing lilies that have the shortest "planting to bloom" cycle for the benefit of commercial cut flower producers, the reason so many fragrant lilies bloom all about the same time (July).  You can manipulate the bloom in the home garden by simply ordering bulbs for delivery in early May to have lilies flowering later, but you sacrifice height that first year and the second year they reset themselves to bloom with their siblings.  Putting lily pots in shade will slow them down for blooming as well, but can elongate the stems - however if you need your lilies to be slightly taller then this can work to your advantage.

July blooming - Paraguay OT Lily

Only available for spring planting  Lilium speciosum blooms reliably later than the Oriental lilies (the reason why they are rarely available for planting in fall) and still has a soft, light fragrance.  Climates such as the coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest or Northeast can see bloom well into September.   In warmer areas of the Midwest flowering times will be earlier, but will reliably follow the last of the spicy-scented Oriental or the perfumed Orienpets (OT), plus their fragrance will be more evident due to the warmer temperature during bloom.

The lovely graceful plants also do well in Southern States where winter low temperature usually do not go much below freezing for most of the winter.

L. speciosum is tougher to grow in short season Mountain areas because the plants bloom too late in the season to mature the bulbs before winter, but if you have a heated greenhouse, potted lilies can be easily moved under cover to ripen the foliage.
L speciosum album
Growing any type of lily bulb indoors without at least a ventilated sun room will not work however, lilies need a lot of light to grow well and daily breezes to strengthen stems and to hold up the heavy flowers. Because they do bloom later than the other Lilium, plant near the front of borders so the flowers can be fully appreciated.

Historical Note: In the early part of the 20th century, Rubrum lilies were prolific in Japan and grew wild throughout the country. Hirotaka Uchida was one of Japan’s most proficient farmers and Hirotaka’s personal pursuit involved the cultivation of exceptional Rubrum lilies; selecting the most beautiful flowers which showed the greatest resistance to disease. These exceptional lilies were then transplanted to a special field where he and his eldest son cared for them.

L. speciosum rubrum

When World War II began, many orchards were turned into potato fields. Although flower fields were politically discouraged, the Uchidas had such an affection for their special selections that while other flowers disappeared, their lily efforts continued. After the war, the Uchida family exported the first 60 bulbs of their crowning achievement: a lightly-fragrant, beautiful rose-crimson, spotted Rubrum which demonstrated exceptional hardiness.

By 1950, the not yet named ‘Uchida’ had received wide recognition for its resistance to virus. Six years later, it was officially registered as Lilium speciosum rubrum ‘Uchida’ (click name to see web photo) in recognition of Hirotaka and his son. In 1963, a gold medal was awarded to this lily at the prestigious Internationalle Gartenbau Ausstellung in Hamburg, Germany. ‘Uchida’ is well established as a true heirloom, to pass on in ever-increasing numbers from generation to generation to delight the senses.  Historical data obtained from the Ofuna Botanical Garden, Japan, where we obtained our first stock of this wonderful lily.

Try a trio to plant this spring because we are not able to dig the bulbs in time for fall delivery - and this is one group of lilies that  you don't want to overlook for your garden. 

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