Monday, December 9, 2013

Help... Winter Lily Pollen Stains!

'Zambesi' - Fresh white flowers & pollen just beginning to "open".
Note from Dianna: 

Kathy, a gardener who loves her lilies in the greater Seattle area, sent us an email in November asking for help with pollen stains on her wool sweater.  A day later, when asked if she could write a short story and document the pollen removal with photos, she reported that even after a a single day of exposing the fabric to sunshine, the stain had already shrunk too much to make dramatic photos. 

Good work, Kathy!

(All photographs by B&D Lilies.)

Kathy's "Winter" Lily Pollen Report

"Here I am in the kitchen cooking away with a beautiful vase of lilies on the counter. They smell so wonderful. Now, I've heard pollen does not come out of fabric and I should be cutting off the anthers where the pollen dust sits. Problem is, I've also been told the fragrance is emitted from the anther. True, False, I don't know. For this story it's true because that's the reason I had not cut the anthers off.

Back to dancing around the kitchen because I'm cooking a great dinner for a special person. As I dip and turn I realize I'm close to brushing up against the lily, I panic and try to dodge it, but my arm sweeps by the anthers getting covered across the whole upper arm. I immediately take the wool sweater off and flush it with water with nothing happening. Adding dish soap and rubbing between my hands only makes it spread. I stop. Ring it, pat it, and PANIC!

I run to the computer to hunt for any information on the web. Everyone recommended the sun on a sunny day. They also had fabric like cotton and linen. I have wool, it's winter and I live in the Pacific Northwest, which means no sun.

Taking a chance. I put the sweater in a single pane window that had morning light, not sun light. Next afternoon when I had time to get back to the sweater the spot looked a little diminished. As it set in the window over the next month little by little the spot has disappeared.

  1. The sun works on materials of cotton, linen, wool and probably many others
  2. Natural Light over a longer period of time works too.
  3. The fragrance comes from the anther, pistil and even the petals.
  4. Don't touch the area that was brushed by the anthers. Let it dry and brush it off in a day or two with a soft brush. Tape also works if you don't have a brush."

Further Notes from Dianna

'Corcovado' OT - anthers "closed", Style moist.
  • When a lily flower first opens, the anthers are moist and tightly closed.  As the day progresses, they unfurl, exposing the pollen grains.
  • Petal tips have the greatest concentration of fragrance oils, so sniff the edges of a fully opened flower for the best scent.  The center of the lily, where the reproductive parts are located, can be removed without any loss of perceived fragrance. 
  • The "Style", which ends in a three part "knob" and drips sweet-tasting stigmatic fluid, also exhibits light scent, and in the case of a large purebred Oriental lily, can sometimes plentifully run down the bottom petal.  This sticky protrusion helps to hold the pollen from other varieties tightly to the Style, as hummingbirds, bees and other insects brush against it. This is how new hybrids are created from the resulting seed—produced later in the summer between compatible plants, if the growing season is favorable.
Can you see the pollen grains? (Hint: Look at the texture.)
  • Pollen is generally sticky, even when "dry", which is the reason why you should never try to brush pollen off with your hand; the natural oils present on your skin will smear and "set" the pollen into fabric, or simply beautify your skin with a lovely orange-yellow cast.  
  • If pollen is on your skin, such as an arm, flicking a soft cloth or brush on the grains can generally remove it.  In the field, we've used the end of a clean tractor towel to knock the pollen off jeans, not nearly as effective as a brush, but good for emergencies.
  • It is a simple thing to gently pull off the dangling anthers with your fingers before they fully open, or use a tissue to remove open ones and keep your fingers from turning yellow.  With a dry artist brush, you can sweep off any dropped pollen grains on the petals to tidy the flower, but only if the petals and pollen are dry.  Lily pollen grains are generally too sticky and large to blow around upon the wind, so generally do not affect those with sensitivities to spring and summer pollen, and for those of us with fragrance allergies, unscented lilies are generally preferred for indoor use. 
'Little Yellow Kiss'

'Miss Lucy'

'Polka Dot' - a Spring 2014 Introduction.

  • Don't want to go to the bother of picking off pollen to bring the stems indoors for vases?  Choose one of the pollen-free varieties, such as 'Little Yellow Kiss' (Asiatic) or one of the fluffy and fragrant Double Orientals for your home.  The anthers are either not completely formed—hidden completely inside the petals—like 'Miss Lucy' or do not naturally produce a significant amount of pollen beyond a few grains.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What's happening underground this winter?

Lily bulb regenerating in October.
Lily bulbs are in a constant state of growth; even during the winter months new basal plate roots are expanding, bulblets (offshoots) are growing larger, but most important, the center of your lily bulb is continuing to regenerate for its next flowering period.  

Sometimes it is easy to see the transformation because more of the bulb is spent to grow a stem with some cultivars.  The bulb shown is a perfect example - notice the two different colors of scales?  The outside purple-brown scales were part of the "original" bulb; you can see that during flowering, most of the nice fat bulb planted the previous fall or in early spring had shrunk to only a few outside scales, consuming the center in order to grow a stem.  The backside of this bulb (not shown) was where the stem had emerged for flowering in July.  The new bulb began forming when the flowers were finished, emerging from the basal plate, (bottom) along with a couple of new bulblets that will be exact duplicates of the original.  

Of the three prime necessities for a sustainable lily garden—well drained soil, sunlight and fertilizer—some folks begin to become a little forgetful when it comes time to help the lilies prepare for next year's flowers. 

If your soil was prepared well before planting to be soft and fluffyeven if an application of fertilizer is missed a couple of timeslilies will extract what food they can from their surrounding soil to flower the next year.  If no fertilizer or annual top dressing of compost is provided, lily bulbs will tend to become smaller each year and finally disappear completely

Spreading POOpeas around the stems.

Feed your lilies for bigger and better flowers each year.

We recommend two feedings a year—once when the sprouts are just emerging in spring and the stem roots are beginning to grow—then again when the flowers are beginning to open and the stored food within the lily bulb is depleted.  You can either use a commercial formula or mix your own elements for an organic approach.  Remember that lilies like balanced feeding, too much nitrogen will grow lovely green leaves, but at the expense of good flowers.  A "blooming" formula (e.g. 0-20-0) encourages flowers, but nitrogen and potash are still needed to grow new bulb scales. 

Lilies are heavy feeders, but they only need fertilizer spread during the times of rapid growth or roots can be damaged.  Slow release fertilizer (worked into the top 2 inches of soil) generally only works when soil temperatures reach a certain degree, and usually after the stems are already tall, missing the first milestone.  Time release is better in containers than open garden, because potting soil stays warmer during active growth, but because the volume of soil used is constricted and pots are watered more frequently, it is harder to judge the amount of fertilizer needed.

What if you've forgotten?
  • If you've missed spreading fertilizer during flowering in an established lily garden, do put an inch or two of compost or well-aged manure where the stems were produced this summer, even if your soil is completely frozen when you remember. 
  • For newly planted September to December bulbs, mixing fertilizer at the bottom of the planting hole is generally wasted over winter.  It is the roots produced in spring between the top of the lily bulb and the soil surface (stem roots) that are expecting the food at the proper times, not below the bulb.  Organic material spread on the soil surface takes a year or more to completely break down, and so is a better choice during planting time in October and November.
  • Since everything the lily needs to bloom is already present in the bulb and is depleted during the process of making a stem and flowers, fertilizer you apply during the spring and summer is for the next season's bloom.  If your soil is on the poor side naturally, not fertilizing will compromise next season's flowers—so it is important to always be thinking ahead.  Missing a few meals will not hurt, but for long term health, a regular fertilization program of twice a year is preferred.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Guidelines for Winter Protection of Lily Bulbs

Cold Winters - Midwest & Northeast
Although moderate climates only require enough mulch to reduce winter weed germination, colder climates need a bit more attention. In colder areas of Wisconsin, Minnesota and other Northern Tier States, gardens can experience very cold temperatures with frost levels greater than 5 feet and without enough snow cover to prevent the loss of rose bushes, trees, shrubs and other “above ground” plants. Protecting lily bulbs under such trying conditions is easy if the ground is properly mulched.  In the severe winter climates you MUST place an insulating layer of straw, ground leaves or other material over all Trumpet, Oriental, OT Hybrids or species where gardens are subject to deep freezes (generally colder than -10o F.), this is especially true if a good snow cover is lacking or not expected. Asiatics do not usually need extra protection, but all other lily bulbs in the Midwest, Northeast or Mountain states should be covered for protection.

In early Spring, remove the mulch in layers as the ground thaws and warms, to evaporate rainfall (or snow melt) as quickly as possible.
Too much sudden moisture can cause your bulbs and sprouts to rot. If lilies are planted at the top of a ridge or small hill, frost will not settle on the plants, so those areas may get by with less mulch  Avoid soggy, wet areas as well as low spots where frost will be heavier in winter.  A good layer of mulch may consist of 8 to 12 inches of straw or hay, tree boughs or other fluffy material. Avoid compacted, whole leaves or wet grass clippings because these have the potential to hold too much moisture around your underground bulbs and the sprouts will rot in spring if you do not remove the mulch fast enough. Shredded leaves are better because they allow air movement and are easier to remove in spring.

Wet Winters - Southern & Coastal States
In mild climates, be very CAREFUL about mulching newly planted bulbs if you were affected by an unusual amount of rainfall last winter or spring, that resulted in your garden becoming overly saturated.  Lily Bulbs by their very nature are designed to store water for times of drought; plant on a slope or in a slightly raised bed to avoid flooding—they do not swim well and will suffocate if the soil stays constantly soggy over winter.  Moisture replenished from rainfall on a daily basis is OK just as long as it is draining away quickly and not sitting stagnant.  During cold and wet springs, a thick mulch over lily bulbs may cause the sprouts to decompose while still underground or as they begin to emerge. (See Fungus: Stump Rot (Phytophthora) on our website under “Problem solving - Animals to Weeds”.) In moderate/mild Southern and Coastal areas, use only enough mulch (one or two inches) to suppress winter weed germination, especially if this winter is expected to be wetter than normal.
During very moist winters, if the soil surface is not allowed to dry between rainfalls and the garden remains saturated, you will risk losing even established bulbs. 
Use a porous mulch (e.g. straw or large nuggets of bark) will allow your soil to breathe and dry faster. Go easy on compost; only an inch or two on top of the soil is recommended per year.  Your goal is not deep freeze protection as in the Midwest or Northern states, but rather a tidier garden.

Gardeners in maritime areas of the Pacific Northwest, that are subject to large amounts of heavy rainfall over winter and into June, need to be especially careful about using bark, shredded leaves or other decorative materials in winter.  Add a new layer to your garden in spring after wet snow and/or heavy rainfall has diminished and just before the new weed seeds begin to germinate, which will keep the garden looking good all next summer.  It is important to allow the soil surface to dry properly between storms. For good looks, freshen your mulched garden in June, after the wet and cold weather has settled and the days have become drier.

NEW - Alaska & Gardens at High Elevation
(Not printed in the Planting Guide.) Planting in the garden is preferable (See Midwest & Northeast Instructions above), but customers in the far north sometimes pot up lily bulbs for winter and keep them in a colder area until spring.  These instructions are important should the soil suddenly freeze too hard and deep before our bulbs can be harvested and mailed in mid October.  Strategies include placing lily bulbs planted in pots with moist—not saturated soil—in the crawl space under their house or wrapping them in pink fiberglass insulation in an attached, cold garage or protected shed over winter.  A heavy cover of insulating snow also helps to moderate the temperature so that the soil surrounding the pots slowly freezes around them.  Quick freezes or freeze-thaw conditions all winter will leave lily bulbs looking like a frozen, thawed onion—limp and not viable.
Do not store pots in a greenhouse or root cellar that stays warm over winter OR is allowed to experience quick freeze-thaw conditions.
Lily bulbs need 8 to 10 weeks of cold, preferable below 35 degrees F. to reset themselves for bloom the next summer.  If they do not have enough cold treatment, they will either emerge weak and spindly or simply grow leaves and not bloom.  Should pots be stored in an greenhouse that stays constantly over 40 degrees day and night, the bulbs will also not bloom well either.  Modern hybrids are derived from wild lilies in temperature climates, where the soil slowly freezes deep over a period of time or the soil regularly only freezes a few inches below the surface each winter.  If stored in an unheated greenhouse, where the temperatures drop below freezing at night, but warm up to above freezing on sunny days, the freeze-thaw will compromise the integrity of your lily bulbs and they will most likely rot before spring.

Your goal is to allow soil surrounding the lily bulbs to slowly freeze.  We do the same in our winter coolers.  Wet peat surrounding the bulbs is frozen solid, which in turn slightly freezes the lilies in place and mimics a natural winter.  They stay in this dormant frozen state with proper hydration and the cooler air temperature is just a degree above freezing, until the cases are removed and prepared for shipping across the USA in April.  This is not something you cannot do at home, because the lilies need to be in a large block of soil/bulbs (about 45-50 pounds) to be protected and the air temperature is dropped only a few degrees each week.  Home freezers are designed to freeze solidly to zero or below within a few hours, which would turn the lily bulb to mush upon thaw.

Planted in a well-drained garden, soil freezes at a slower rate and acts as a buffer.  If you are lucky to have a good snow cover as well, your sleeping bulbs are quite happy.  If in those odd years of either no snowfall or snow that comes and goes over winter,  a thick mulch (foot or so deep) of shredded leaves, cut evergreen branches, bark or other insulating material is in order.  Avoid whole, large leaves (like Bigleaf Maple) because they will tend to mat down and become slimy.  Remove the layers as the snow melts to allow soil to slowly warm and wake up your lilies.

Also see:  Hardiness for bulb types and a brief Planting Guide for bulb depth on this Blog.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Planting Lily Bulbs on their side... for Water Control?

Has anyone ever suggested to you that lily bulbs should be planted on their sides to "keep them from filling up with water" over winter in heavy clay soil?  Does it work?

Physiology of a Lily Bulb

When lily bulbs are dug, and where the old flowering stem was located, you can see a neat and tidy "hole".  Lily bulbs are composed of overlapping "scales" attached at the basal plate (bottom of bulb).  Water washes through the lily bulb to the roots, which is sort of like a kitchen bowl with a crack in the bottom—it holds water for a period of time, but eventually the water completely leaks away. 

Lily Bulbs do not swim well.
  • Your goal is to have water move freely and quickly from the soil immediately surrounding the bulbs, so they will not be subject to rotting over winter and early spring. 
  • Sluggish drainage—caused by tightly packed clay soil—creates saturated soil for an extended period of time, which results in a depletion of oxygen and danger of loss over winter/spring.  
  • Frequent heavy rainfall with fast draining soil provides oxygen to the plant tissues, which is not a problem in sandy loam because the water drains quickly away from the bulb itself.  
  • Planting lilies on their sides into clay-based soil still doesn't do anything to improve the drainage, you will still have over-saturated soil. 
  • Digging a larger-than normal hole in clay soil, then refilling it with commercial potting soil doesn't work either—the hole acts as a slump and quickly fills with water. 

The solution for clay-based soil is a slightly raised wide mound or berm, where the bulb is above natural ground level.  The lily roots may penetrate further below and into the natural clay, but the bulb itself stays drier.

What is going on underground?

There's more going on under the soil surface than most people ever suspect.  While being tractor-planted, many bulbs will either land upside down in the soft soil, or sideways.  Lilies have "contractile roots" on the bottom of the bulb, which helps to anchor the lily from upheaval by wind.  They will frequently turn themselves right side up as the new roots grow deeper into the soil, but some may take another year to become fully upright. 

In the photo below, the roots on the left are contractile basal plate roots.  Do you see how thick they are?  The ones growing above the bulb are stem roots, which being just under the soil surface, take up nutrients, the reason why fertilizer is spread on top of the soil, not mixed into the bottom of the planting hole.  Basel plate roots can persist from year to year, stem roots are grown new each year with the new stem.  By the way, there is no need to wash transplanted bulbs before planting, this photo was just to clearly show the two kinds of roots.  Tiny bulblets—offshoots of the original—will nest within the tangle of roots, if that variety is so inclined and make new, full-sized bulbs for you within a few years.

Not all lily bulbs produce stem bulblets.  Some, like this Orienpet, just keep getting bigger until they divide into two.

The next photo shows an Asiatic lily that was laying on its side when planted (in spring), and the sprout traveled underground for over a foot before turning up to make a stem above ground.  The rock on the right is there to prop it up and show how the now-browned stem emerged from the soil. Had it been planted upright to begin with, the plant would not have expended as much energy underground, and would probably have had a taller stem with more flowers that year. 

Digging this one was a chore, the stem just kept going off into its neighbors.

The Bottom Line

Correct any poor draining soil and put the bulb, so the roots are downward, with no need to put them on their sides.  Even if you make a mistake and accidentally plant them upside down, the stems will still find their way to the sunshine.

Related Blog Postings: 
Semi-automated Planting of Lily Bulbs
Clay Soil and Lily Bulbs
Bulbs planting upside down?  No Worries.
When Mother Nature is Generous with Rainfall

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Photo Instruction for Dividing a Lily bulb.

Lily bulb that produced two flowering stems over summer.
See how the original easily separates into two bulbs?

One of the questions that comes up when folks want to divide overgrown clumps of lily bulbs is where do I "cut" them? 

No cutting is necessary, because lilies actually are quite easy to divide. 

Look for a natural division where two bulbs are attached to each other.

 When a lily bulb is ready to divide, a simple pulling apart of the bulb is all it takes.  If you find resistance, don't try to force them, simply replant and let them wait for another season and two stems will emerge from each side.

After dividing, both bulbs will be flattened on one side, but each half is a self contained, flowering size bulb.  The one on the left has the bottom of the stem attached, the other stem fell out during harvest.

Let the bulbs air dry for an hour before planting back.

Two bulbs are now ready to plant, each with their own set of roots.

The hens in the background are part of our free-range chicken flock and were very interested in what I was doing.  Of course, that just simply means they were trying to determine whether or not any tasty corn (scratch) was involved.  Nope, not this time, and so they wandered off to check out the goose pen.

You do not have to be exact, this is just a guideline.

Plant your lilies back at approximately the same depth they were growing.  One and one half times the height of the bulb (up and down, not around) is the proper depth of the hole. 

This bulb is about 2 inches tall, so the hole will be about 6 inches deep, with about 4 inches of soil covering the lily bulb.

See the flattened side on each bulb?

If lily bulbs are ready to naturally divide on their own, we split them while they are being dug and cleaned, which is only one of the ways we propagate our lilies. 

Occasionally, we get a phone call that someone received "only half of a bulb", because one side was flattened.  Those may look a bit odd, but the lily is certainly a mature bulb, because it had already flowered that season.

Don't worry if you have one of these in your order, everything the lily needs for blooming next summer is already neatly packed inside.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How and When to Dig Lily Bulbs

Just a few yellow green leaves are left here.

Do you need to move lily bulbs out of the way of new construction, or have they outgrown their spot?  The best time to transplant lilies is when the leaves have turned from green to brown because at that time it is certain the bulbs have matured enough to safely dig. 

See how the leaves have mostly all turned brown in the photograph?  These bulbs have fully regenerated and are ready to go through their winter dormant period.  If dug too early in late summer, the bulb's are soft and can be easily damaged, plus it may be too small to flower next summer if they have not been enough given time to build themselves back up.

You can carefully dig when the leaves have all turned from green to yellow, but by waiting just a week or two more, when all the energy is safely stored, it will make a difference in the number of flowers produced next summer.

Don't begin digging too close to the stem or you risk cutting the lily bulb.

Carefully, position your shovel or garden fork about 4 inches away from the stem and dig down 7 to 8 inches to the side.  If you planted properly, the lily bulbs should be at least that deep, but if a clump of stems is older and overgrown, the bulbs may be closer to the surface, especially if yearly weeding has pulled away some of the soil.

Using the stem as a "handle", gently lift the bulb and root ball.  Pull excess soil from around the bulb with your fingers, or you can simply wash the bulb in a bucket of water, which is messier—but also effective.

The circle is where the stem roots are located.  The red line shows how deep the bulb was planted.  Not all bulbs will produce bulblets underground, but this bulb was only planted in the past spring, so it was still "settling in".

Use an old pair of hand pruners or a serrated kitchen knife if you have rocky/sandy soil.
Clip off the stem if it does not "fall off" easily on its own.  Green stems are still firmly attached inside the lily bulb and by yanking the stem out of the bulb, you risk damaging the center of the lily—opening up the bulb to decay and loss over winter.  Lily stems are attached by a "hook" and if the stem is too green, that hook will tear out the inside of the bulb.  Harvest any bulblets that were produced along the stem—inside the stem roots— or at the base (basal plate or bottom) of the lily and plant those separately. 

Bulb harvested and ready to plant back into the garden.

Plant back ASAP because lily bulbs do not have a hard exterior such as Daffodils or Tulips and they will dehydrate quickly if left unprotected by soil or other means.  In fall, we layer the bulbs in moist wood shavings until it is time to package and ship them to you, but without proper equipment for storage, try not to let them stay out of the ground more than a day or so.  In general, it is always best to dig the receiving hole before starting any transplanting project, even a couple of days earlier will be easier on you back and better for your bulbs, perennials, shrubs or trees. 

Related Posts:  Emergency Transplanting-Summer, Low Cost Ways to Increase your Lily Garden, Lily Companion Plants, Stem Roots, Mulching Lily Bulbs for Winter,


Saturday, August 31, 2013

How to Increase "Red Wigglers" in your Garden

Worms under edge of manure pile.
Underground activity, although not visible, can be what makes or breaks your garden.  All species of garden worms, especially night crawlers, are quite useful for more than fishing.  These powerhouses create tunnels from the lower depths of your garden to the surface, aerating and leaving behind worm castings (poop), which allows better root penetration for your bulbs, annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees and more nutrients available to your plants. The loosened soil drains better and is easier on your back when planting new garden treasures.

Ever see night crawlers on the soil surface after a heavy rain?

Worms require moisture to stay hydrated.  For them to break down organic matter from the top few inches of your garden and make it accessible to plant roots, that means fresh water loaded with oxygen, not over-saturated and stagnant mud puddles.  During heavy rainfall, when the ground water is closer to the surface, worms rise.  The old fisherman's trick of heavy watering the night before a fishing trip mimics nature, in order to bring them closer to ground level for collection.  The easiest-to-find worms for fishing always seem to be a few inches below a moist (fresh) manure pile—a little messy and aromatic, but a good place to start looking for home-grown bait.

How to increase your worm population.
  • Avoid the over-use of chemicals in your garden. When garden soil becomes sterile from using too much (or too many years) of easy to spread fertilizer, herbicides, fungicides or pesticides—and as more product is needed to reach the same level of effectiveness—worms die and soil loses its aerobatic properties.  Reasonable use of granular or liquid fertilizer would be only once or twice a year at most and generally provided only as a supplement for plants with specific requirements.  Use of a copper-based fungicide for Botrytis in spring or a sulfur spray in winter on fruit trees are accepted as organic in many states, of which are old-fashioned controls that are both inexpensive and effective.  Weed problem?  Consider only applying a "spot spray" of herbicide on tough hard-to-kill plants should the infestation be too large and hand-digging of deep roots is not practical.  Creepy-crawly bugs and beetles—most are beneficial and feed the birds—but some destructive types will need control for a good vegetable crop or beautiful flowers.  We do not advocate the use of pesticides in the garden if there is an organic solution of hand picking, trapping or even a less toxic spray available.  Yes, this can be more labor-intense or take longer to see results, but it is much safer for humans, animals, birds and our watershed reserves.
  • Spread mulch/compost liberally around your large perennial plants, shrubs and trees, but go easy where bulbs are planted—don't end up burying them too deep by using a thick layer of permanent mulch.  (This is different than "winter mulch" that is removed in spring.)  Avoid using "shredded tire mulch" because it doesn't add any nutrients, or landscape fabric topped by decorative rock, which tends to create compacted soil, because there are no organics for worms to eat.  Grass clippings from the lawn that has not had weedkillers applied, fallen leaves (naturally small or shredded large ones), compost, and manure are all heaven to earthworms and the softened soil makes pulling weeds easy.  Worms break down large particles of compost and leave behind castings to further feed your plants.  If you do not have access to ready made compost, aged manure or fall leaves, consider growing a "green manure", cover crop of fast-growing grains, such as oats, buckwheat, winter wheat, etc., that can be dug in while soft and tender to improve your soil. (See our Blog posting;  Healthy Soil with Oats, not Weeds.)
  • Keep your garden watered.  Clay-based areas allowed to go bone-dry over summer will have rock-hard soil because beneficial worms are not present in great enough numbers to keep it soft, friable and nutrient rich.  In areas of heavy rainfall throughout winter and spring however, go easy on mulch to allow your soil to dry between storms—so that bulbs, perennials and other low growing or dormant plants do not rot underground or at the crown (soil surface).

Start Now.
Oat cover crop in veggie garden about 8" tall and
ready to till into the soil.

Even if your garden has been mistreated in the past by a previous occupant or you are just beginning to prefer organic methods of gardening, the land can heal itself over time.  Be patient and do not give up.  Educate your neighbors who might be tempted to spread "death and destruction" along your boundary fence.  Explain the beauty of a simple compost pile for returning unwanted biomass—weeds, trimmings, grass clippings, etc.— back to the garden, encourage natural insect control by attracting birds, and allow worms to do their assigned task in life. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lily Bulb Hardiness & Warm Winter Tolerance

Colder climate leaves turning colors.

(The chart published by the USDA and complete interactive searchinglink belowcan be found on the website for the US National Arboretum, which is a good place to start when trying to determine in what type of climate you live.) 

"When researching your location, bear in mind that all map lines are not absolute and each garden has its own unique micro-climate."

Neighborhoods with many trees blocking wind, hills that "drain" away moisture faster, concrete bulkheads, sidewalks and driveways that tend to collect heat, as well as southern exposures will allow you to grow plants that might not be recommended for your area.  
General Guidelines - Lily Bulb Hardiness 
& Warm Winter Tolerance in Southern States

Tiger Babies Asiatic

Asiatics – Zones 1-9.  (Sweet Surrender, Tiger Babies, Lionheart, “Pearl Series”, etc.) No winter mulch is needed and they prefer colder winters to reset bloom.

Longwood Scented Asiatic

Scented Asiatics – Zones 3-10.  (LA Hybrids such as Red Alert, Nashville, Eyeliner, Party Diamond etc.) grow well in all areas, do not require as much cold to reset the bloom, and would not need an “artificial winter” in the fridge in southern areas.  They start to grow immediately in spring after thaw, which is very helpful during short growing seasons, but a hard frost in late spring could damage sprouts.

Muscadette Oriental

Purebred Orientals – Zones 6-9, colder with winter mulch.  (Casablanca, Star Gazer, Acapulco, Muscadette, Crystal Blanca etc.), but if heavily mulched for winter or with a good snowfall, down to Zone 3 or 4 easily. Oriental lilies dislike hot, dry areas, growing the bulbs in afternoon sun is recommended because the flowers will last longer.

Golden Splendor Trumpet


Purebred Trumpets – Zones 7-10, colder with winter mulch.  (Copper King Strain, Pink Perfection Strain, Golden Splendor Strain, “Angel Series”, etc.), heavily mulched, down to Zone 3 or 4, but can be subject to late freeze damage in May, cover emerging stems if temperatures below 30 degrees F. are expected.


Conca d'Or (OT)

Oriental-Trumpet Hybrids – Zones 6-9, colder with winter mulch. (OT hybrids like Conca ‘dOr, Cocossa, Tea for Two, Eudoxia, Scheherazade, Sweetheart, etc.), same as Purebred Orientals, down to Zone 3 or 4 if well mulched for winter, and seem to be more resistant to late frost damage, plus because of the “trumpet” genes, they do not require as much winter chill as Oriental lilies, thus are very suitable for southern areas and will take higher heat in summer. 

Triumphator (LO)

 Longiflorum-Oriental Hybrids – Zones 7-10, colder with winter mulch. (LO  hybrids like Gizmo, Triumphator, etc.), about the same as Purebred Trumpets and are suitable for southern areas that have higher heat in summer.  For colder areas and heavily mulched over winder, down to Zone 3 or 4, but could be subject to late freeze damage in May, cover emerging stems if temperatures below 30 degrees F. are expected.


Find your USDA Hardiness Zone  
The following are examples of USDA Zones in the USA and Canada, if your location is not listed, look at the average low winter temperature listed (Fahrenheit, not Celsius).  The general guidelines are based on average low temperatures. To open a new browser window access the interactive map click USDA Zone Chart

Zone 1--- ( Below -50 F) --- Fairbanks, Alaska; Resolute, NW Territories (Canada)
Zone 2a --- (-50 to -45 F) --- Prudhoe Bay, Alaska; Flin Flon, Manitoba (Canada)
Zone 2b --- (-45 to -40 F) --- Unalakleet, Alaska; Pinecreek, Minnesota
Zone 3a --- (-40 to -35 F) --- International Falls, Minnesota; St. Michael, Alaska
Zone 3b --- (-35 to -30 F) --- Tomahawk, Wisconsin; Sidney, Montana
Zone 4a --- (-30 to -25 F) --- Minneapolis/St.Paul, Minnesota; Lewistown, Montana
Zone 4b --- (-25 to -20 F) --- Northwood, Iowa; Nebraska
Zone 5a --- (-20 to -15 F) --- Des Moines, Iowa; Illinois
Zone 5b --- (-15 to -10 F) --- Columbia, Missouri; Mansfield, Pennsylvania
Zone 6a --- (-10 to -5 F) --- St. Louis, Missouri; Lebanon, Pennsylvania
Zone 6b --- (-5 to 0 F) --- McMinnville, Tennessee; Branson, Missouri
Zone 7a --- (0 to 5 F) --- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; South Boston, Virginia
Zone 7b --- (5 to 10 F) --- Little Rock, Arkansas; Griffin, Georgia
Zone 8a --- (10 to 15 F) --- Tifton, Georgia; Dallas, Texas
Zone 8b --- (15 to 20 F) --- Austin, Texas; Gainesville, Florida
Zone 9a --- (20 to 25 F) --- Houston, Texas; St. Augustine, Florida
Zone 9b --- (25 to 30 F) --- Brownsville, Texas; Fort Pierce, Florida
Zone 10a --- (30 to 35 F) --- Naples, Florida; Victorville, California
Zone 10b --- (35 to 40 F) --- Miami, Florida; Coral Gables, Florida
Zone 11 --- (above 40 F) --- Honolulu, Hawaii; Mazatlan, Mexico

Monday, August 19, 2013

Low Cost Ways to Increase your Lily Garden

Evaluate your landscape now, during late summer, to decide which lilies might be overcrowded or have outgrown their allotted space and need to be divided, and mark the stems before the flowers completely fade and/or the leaves have browned.
Natural propagation is quite rewarding, you do nothing but water, weed and fertilize and nature provides a bountiful harvest, however it is best to wait until the beginning of fall when lily leaves are beginning to turn from green to yellow and the weather is beginning to cool before dividing your bulbs. Assemble shovel, garden fork, labels and one or more buckets to keep the various varieties from being mixed. Alternatively, only digging and dividing one clump at a time, works well to keep things straight.  A lesson learned from long ago, is that  it is much easier to cover the bulbs, than to dig them up, so pace yourself.  Lily bulbs should not be allowed to sit unprotected in the sun or for any length of time without soil for proper hydration.  Aim for finishing the job within one day.

Best time to divide lily bulbs in October.

 Signs of Overcrowding

The clump on the right side has divided into smaller bulbs with only one or two flowers on each stem, but the single uncrowded bulb on the left side was taller and had many blooms. Dig and divide your lily bulbs when you see a reduced number of flowers and with many stems close together.  Also be mindful of other plants growing over the lilies, shading and stealing their water and fertilizer.  Clean out overgrown patches of garden every few years.

Too shallow
Planted too shallow reduces number of bulblets.

 Planted too shallow - No Bulblets

Notice the lack of bulblets on the lower clump?  Even though the bulbs were making stem roots, as weeds were pulled from around the stems, soil was also removed, leaving the lilies planted too shallow to make bulblets.  Mulch "counts" as depth for planting, but does not give roots a place to grow. The pink shading on the stems shows the "mulch depth" on the clump, with the stem roots only condensed into the two inches above the lily bulbs.  More info on planting depth.

How-to Dig and Divide Lily Bulbs
When the leaves have turned from green to yellow, cut back stem to about 6 inches tall, so you know where the lilies are located.  Carefully dig up the entire clump, with the 6" stems still attached, starting about 6 inches away, going the depth of your shovel or spading fork, and slowly moving to where the bulbs are located.  

Use a garden hose and adjustable nozzle to wash off the soil and expose the mother bulb and the stem roots found between bulb and soil surface. Carefully cut the stem an inch above the big bulb using an old pair or pruners, serrated kitchen knife or carpet knife - something that can be sharpened, for without doubt, you will dull the blade on small pebbles or grit woven into the stem roots.  

Lilies look most natural planted in triangular groups of three, spaced 10”-14” apart. Provide at least 6 hours of sun, dappled shade in very warm regions for Orientals.  Cooler summer regions where the average summer temperature is around the mid 70's can plant all varieties in full sun.  We do, and there is no shade in the propagation fields, but we generally have our coastal fog most July and August mornings, which makes for easy photography of the flowers.

Dig holes about 14 inches across and the depth of a standard shovel.  Place bulbs in a triangle touching the outside of the hole, so they are between 8 to 10 inches apart for Asiatic types and 12 to 14 inches apart for Orientals, Trumpets and Orienpets.  Cover bulbs with fluffy soil and mulch after your soil freezes in November in the Midwest.   It is not necessary to mulch bulbs for winter in milder climates.  Plant bulbs 2”- 4” deeper in areas where daily temperatures average over 90 degrees F. and the soil is sandy. Do not plant among aggressive ground covers or where large trees or shrubs will rob nutrients or moisture. Lily bulbs need regular fertilizer, water, and cultivation. They do NOT “naturalize” like Daffodils or Tulips, which have a hard outer shell. Be sure to mulch bulbs in cold climates if a good winter snow cover is not expected. Likewise, in more temperate areas, cold saturated soil will rot lily bulbs some years, so a raised area and fast-draining soil is recommended.  For more detailed planting information, see our website Cultural Guide.

Mixing lilies with other plants?  Here is the link for a short list of Dianna's favorite bulbs, perennials and shrubs in the lily garden.

Bulblets growing on lily scales.
Would you like to increase your garden of lilies faster?  You can imitate the professional growers, to increase a clonal selection (named variety)  faster by vegetative manipulation called "scaling"  (Click here for definition of Scaling.) The Instructions for Scaling Lily Bulbs can be found on our website.

 Did your lilies make seed this summer because you didn't remove the old flowers soon enough - or you deliberately crossed the pollen from one stem to the flowers on another stem?

Growing new lily bulbs from seed is a long process, because these are perennial bulbs, and it can take between 2 and 5+ years before you see a first flower on your new hybrids.  Click here for Instructions for Growing Lilies from Seed.

In general, Asiatic lilies will multiply the fastest, hence the generally lower cost in catalogs. Orientals, Orienpets and Trumpet lilies make the fewest number of bulblets, but the original bulb can grow to be quite large, almost a pound in weight and the size of a grapefruit on some varieties.  Cutting stems before the leaves have turned yellow, or not leaving enough leaves on a stem when using lilies in a floral arrangement, will reduce the size of your lily bulbs for the next season, so do let the leaves mature (yellow) before transplanting.  Floral Designers: do not cut more than 1/3 of the leaves when using stems for indoor use.  It is best to only use varieties that are at least 4 feet tall for cutting, to allow the remaining leaves to feed the lily bulb for next year's bloom.