Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Test Lilies in South Field

Many of our lilies are test-grown in the small field south of our home. We take photos, evaluate growth and compare one variety to another during a short window of time in summer. When photographs are finished, all remaining flowers and buds are immediately removed, which triggers the bulbs to become larger before summer's end and the lily bulb harvest. Most test lilies are grown in small numbers, only 100 bulbs or so. Extra space is planted with bulbs to be saved for propagation, such as the row of taller pink and white lilies in the background the photo above. (Because of bio-security concerns for our 100+ free-range Chickens, Turkeys, Geese, and Ducks, our farm is not open to visitors.)

Occasionally, our flock of about 15 Tufted Roman Geese will sneak into the fields and nibble flowers, which usually results in their pristine white feathers becoming streaked with yellow pollen. While it seems the flock of "guard geese" could be useful in helping to dis-bud the lilies, that would only work if they could be trusted to leave enough unmolested flowers for the camera - or not break stems during a Gander (male bird) disagreement.  In my vegetable garden, pumpkin, squash and cucumber vines are securely fenced off, because within a few minutes, there would be nothing left. Notice the neatly trimmed cucumber vines?

Ancona ducks keep their heads to the ground looking for worms, beetles and slugs, and do very little damage after lily stems are at least 2 feet tall. They are invited into the small flower garden for about a half hour every week or so, to scoop up any newly hatched slugs. We keep them out of the strawberry patch, because ducks are very fond of ripened red berries - we prefer to have our fresh homemade jam!

Waterfowl tend to the lily field just before harvest: Geese eat fresh chickweed which tends to tangle up in the bulbs coming over the harvesting belt, and ducks go over the ground looking for tasty slugs, which are not terribly fun to pick up unexpectedly along with a lily stem.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Brown Lily Stem Cleanup

If you haven't cleaned up your lily garden before winter and the soil is not frozen, those crispy-brown stems do not require cutting, they can be simply pulled out of the ground. Removing old stems helps to control fungus spores in spring, plus gives a tidy look to your garden.

Ground frozen for winter? A pruning lopper - those long-handled tools for trimming trees makes short work of stems without crawling on frozen soil. If you are ready for a new set of loppers, consider one that telescopes and is of lightweight aluminium, which requires only a minimum of bending at the waist for taller individuals. Followed with a multi-pronged leaf rack, the flexible tines pile up cut stems quite neatly. I find that the grass rake pretty much just glides over dormant perennials, plus gathers up stray fallen leaves on bark mulch at the same time.

If you need the old stems as a "marker" for early spring planting of potted trees, shrubs or perennials, cut those stems about 4 inches above the soil. If you leave them at full height, they can be blown over by winter storms, creating a disheveled mess. However, when new lily stems begin emerging, the old husk of stems should be pulled away. We've seen new sprouts coming up inside the old stems, which can mechanically damage the new sprout or spread overwintered fungus spores.

Monday, February 26, 2018

February 27, 2018 - Newsletter

Are you having a hard time choosing which lilies "go together"?  Read on for helpful hints when combining lilies. There are no hard and fast rules, however some guidelines do make it easier.

Lilium regale (Species lily)

Even if your style is just to plant everything together and hope for the best, simply looking for a common trait between varieties - such as large flowers, accent colors in one that matches the main color in another, how the flowers are held on the stem (up-facing, outfacing or pendant) - goes a long way in creating a expert theme.

'Pink Palace' (Orienpet)

Do you desire a succession of flowers in a certain color? 
Overlapping bloom times make it easy to showcase one lily after another in the garden, to draw the eye from one planting to another. Mercifully, differing types and colors of lilies blend pretty well with one another on their own, however there are some loosely held "rules" to increase your viewing pleasure.

Our farm, far from being a "magazine" landscape, has a changing color palette. The first colors in spring are warm gold, soft orange, and red-orange deciduous Azaleas and dark red, white, and coral-colored Rhododendrons. (No daffodils here - when you have Dandelions, who needs more yellow in spring?) 

In July, light pastel, white, apricot, and orange Trumpets add a heady aroma in the garden; a single stem on a still day will announce its presence even when your eyes are closed. Purebred Asiatics, without fragrance, bloom Late May to June and and are favored as a cut flower indoors. Scented Asiatics (LA hybrids) flourish in June/July, overlapping the trumpets and also are terrific in vases, but sensitive individuals may still find them too strong indoors.


Tufted Roman Geese under Rose of Sharon
As our rains diminish and the weather warms, solid white, pink, raspberry, and two-tone tinted Orienpets and Orientals take center stage. Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) in blue, lavender, rose, and light pink begin flowering with the last of the Oriental lilies and continue into fall when Blueberries, Aronia, Maples, and Euonymus begin strutting their fall colors.

'Golden Eye' Rose opens scarlet, matures soft rose-red
Throughout summer, carefully placed 'Golden Eye' roses, with strong canes and intense thorns, provide bright red-orange color and bullet-proof glossy green foliage - which does not require spraying fungicide in our damp, Northwestern climate. In addition to being "goose and duck resistant" when planted among the fruit trees, this cultivar adds color to otherwise uninteresting tree trunks before the apples and plums begin to color up and ripen.

Natural cement paving stones and crushed basalt gravel, white flowered perennials, burgundy edged leaves on Azaleas and 'Hollywood' Plum trees, plus dark purple-red Coral Bells (Huercha) help tie everything together. Evergreen shrubs and trees add backdrop to the change of colors and seasons, and encourage the eye to wonder at the hidden vistas behind the greenery.

True lilies (Lilium) come in all shades of colors from white to almost black and every shade in between - except the color blue. Most established lilies stay in bloom for 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the summer temperature and the number of flowers on the stem. Older lily bulbs will have more flowers and perhaps grow become taller than you expect. Hot summers will cause the lilies to mature faster on shorter stems; cooler temperatures will extend the bloom, sometimes with a 10 day variance (by date) from year to year, based on weather.

New lily bulb acquisitions are generally shorter the first summer after planting and bloom later than the same variety already present in your garden for several years. There are 7-foot tall 'Pink Palace' Orienpets in full sun in our front garden, that have been in place for about 5 years (see photo at top of email).  The same variety, newly planted, usually average 3 to 4 feet tall the first season. However, 2 years later they will do a marvelous job of "catching up" and begin to tower over the Exbury Azaleas.


Matching Accent Colors (Shown left to right - 'Sweet Zanica', 'Tribal Dance', 'Night Rider') Picking a color theme doesn't mean that the lilies all have to be the same exact color. If you are using heavily spotted flowers, choose a more somber or solid color to match just a portion of the other cultivar. The deep color of 'Night Rider' matches the flower color deep within the petals of 'Tribal Dance'. Light colors tend to brighten up all plantings when there are multiple hues and color families, because white and pastel becomes provides contrast to show off intense shades.

Warm Colors in the Garden (Shown left to right, 'Red Morning', 'African Queen', 'Elusive') Warm shades of red, orange, and cream blend very well with one another, just think of the red blush on a ripe peach, delectable in color as well as taste! Peachy cream edges, such as on 'Red Morning' or the peach interior stripe of 'Elusive' compliment the peachy-orange blend in 'African Queen', plus its outer color of reddish brown adds another contrast. You don't need to plant them close together - to be viewed as a whole, space 5 or 6 feet apart and let the eye wander over your garden for the most dramatic effect.

How to use Large Flowered Lilies (Shown from left to right, 'Conca d'Or', 'Gizmo', 'Kushi Maya') When mixing larger sized flowers in the garden, it helps to have the blooms either all "facing" outward and down - or be all strictly up-facing (pointed upwards the sky). The eye is automatically drawn to the size of the larger lilies and smaller lily flowers tend to be not noticed. A single clump of 3 to 5 stems of the same variety makes a stunning accent among shorter growing perennials.

Light Colors Provide Contrast (Shown left to right, 'Eyeliner', 'Pink Snowflake', 'Casablanca') None of these will usually overlap in my garden, so from late June to August, a different white lily is blooming. 'Pink Snowflake' has pink buds and outside ribs, but opens sparkling white. Pale tints are your transition colors, equally at home with dark reds and light pinks, apricots and oranges. They make it easy to move the eye from one section of garden to another, plus make the darker shaded lilies appear more intense. Light shades are important under trees or where there is a lower light level, whereas more bold colors tend to disappear into the background. 

Dianna likes spike-like stems of Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) in the background to add a lofty texture, because it is a tough plant that forms a strong enough crown that even busy Chickens, scratching the soil while looking for tasty tidbits, do no harm. The yellow lilies are 'Belladonna', which are no longer available, but have been replaced with Tollo, another strong growing Orienpet.

(Shown from left to right, 'Guardia', 'Beloncia', 'Sorbonne') Different shades of pink can become a little overwhelming to the senses, so experiment with choosing varieties that go into the raspberry tone like 'Guardia' or have a white edge like 'Sorbonne'. The exception would be if you plant groups of all the same variety in a large garden that will be viewed from a distance. 

To view all lilies mentioned in this posting, please click February 27, 2018 Newsletter and you will be sent to the corresponding page on our website. Because we are on a 3 to 5 year rotation for many cultivars, availability is not guaranteed past the spring 2018 shipping season. Did you not receive this Newsletter? Click here to sign up new or to correct your email information.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Be mindful of lily bulblets.

Oriental bulblets in spring.
As you well know, not all green leaves emerging are weeds.

What are those odd looking single leaves at the base of an established lily?  Lily bulbs have a built in process for creating offspring; tiny nodules may form at the base of the bulb (basal plate bulblets), along portions of the underground stem (stem bulblets), or even with a few Asiatic lilies, at the base of a leaf where it attaches to the above ground stem (aerial bulblets).

The leaves shown in the right photo are of Oriental bulblets.  They typically will be wide and slightly rounded.  The bulblets under ground are not much larger than the eraser on a pencil.

Basal Plate Bulblets

'Candlestick' Basal Plate Bulblets.

This is the most common way for a lily bulb to divide, by simply forming new growth at the bottom of the bulb.

See the three large bulblets at the base of this bulb of 'Candlestick'?  They will put up a small stem, with one flower each.

Asiatic lilies and Lilium longiflorum hybrids are quicker to divide, sometimes three or more new bulbs can form each summer, which may bloom for you the following year. 

'Belonica' double-flowered Oriental.

Oriental Lilies

Oriental lilies can be erratic for propagating, only producing side bulblets on some cultivars if the growing season is good, and enjoying even amounts of moisture, fertilizer and fluffy soil to grow an expansive root system.  The usual method of quickly increasing bulbs is to "scale" the lily in fall, see "Scale Production" on our website.

Most Oriental bulblets grow slower than Asiatic hybrids, usually needing three years of additional care before they mature enough for us to offer on www.bdlilies.com.

'Donato' Orienpet lily.
OT Lilies
OT (Orienpets or Oriental-Trumpet Hybrids) have similar growth patterns as do regular (purebred) Oriental lilies.  They make fewer basal plate and underground stem bulblets (see below), and therefore take longer to propagate commercially.  Most years, bulbs will simply get larger and larger, until they naturally divide into two or three flowering size bulbs.
Purebred Trumpet lilies are similar, and after a few years of growing undisturbed, can be the size of a small cantaloupe. 

Stem Bulblets - on all types of lily bulbs

Asiatic bulblets along the underground stem.

Attached to the underground stem, and tucked within the new feeder roots produced every year, offshoots (bulblets) are an exact genetic duplicate of the original flowering bulb.  

These are easily removed in fall after the foliage has matured from green to brown and winter is approaching.  Simply pull the old crispy-brown stem out of the ground and gently dig down above the mother bulb to harvest the bulblets.

Choose a protected nursery bed with only 2 or 3 inches of soil covering the tops for the first year.  After the garden has frozen for winter, add a bit of mulch so you do not forget where they are planted. While we are harvesting bulbs in fall, bulblets are saved either for propagation or to sell as a mixed bag of bulblets at flower shows in spring. 

Arial bulblets are the little black colored offshoots that grow at the base of each leaf on an old-fashioned, orange colored tiger lily (Asiatic).  Some modern hybrids that have it in their breeding background will also exhibit this trait.  We do not grow "Tiger" hybrids here, partially because any bulblets that drops off the stem, or are missed during harvest will grow, causing all sorts of havoc.  There would be out of place, rogue lilies in the field two years later as they begin to grow within the carefully planted row.  However, the primary reason for not growing them is because they can be a "Typhoid Mary" in the garden.  See our Knowledge Base, Lilium lancifolium for more information.)

See  Dig 'n Divide - Lilies for Fee - Easy How-to  on our website, www.bdlilies.com

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Shady Areas and Lilies

Martagon lily in deciduous woodland
What sort of shade matters.

What kinds of plants do you have growing in your shady areas?  Grass, Hosta, primroses or violets?  Does the sun shine directly for an hour or two?  Do tall deciduous trees filter the sun, creating patches of bright indirect light that move around depending on the hour?

The area in this photo on the left receives 2 hours of direct light and is somewhat moderated by waving tree branches overhead.  Before a pine was removed last summer, there was no direct sunlight.  The plants flowered, but the foliage had never looked as nice as shown in the photo, because now the stems have slightly more light.

Sunshine is more intense in southern regions, high plains, and mountain areas.  Lilies that will happily flower in the shade of a tree with a dense canopy of leaves in a southern states may not do so well in cool maritime climates.  If the light is too dark, the result may be lily stems doubled in height, plus leaning dramatically towards a brighter light source.  Although pretty, the flowers will not be evenly spaced around the top of the stem.  This is not necessarily a problem in the garden, but that stem would not receive an award in competition, because the flowers would not be balanced.

'Pearl Jennifer' - available for order in 2015
Which lilies for where?

All lilies can flower just fine in dappled shade, bright indirect light or with a half day of full sun.  If you have a choice between morning sun and afternoon sun, pick the gentler Eastern (morning sun) location.  Afternoon sun is more intense and will tend to cause stems to face the sun, whereas planting lilies in full morning sun results in straighter stems and more evenly spaced flowers.

Watch the flowers to see how much shade they can tolerate.

Martagon lilies, because of their more delicate leaves and early blooming nature, are most at home in lightly shaded wooded areas where the delicate looking tiny flowers are spaced further apart and the stems lean towards the light.  In full sun, buds are tighter together, which makes a lovely stem for competition.

Oriental lilies prefer afternoon shade in warmer regions with long summers, such as in the more southern states. Upward facing flowers on Asiatic lilies are usually not as graceful looking as Orientals or Trumpets when leaning toward the sun on account of too much shade.

If stems "stretch" more than you like, you can either stake the stems or move bulbs to a sunnier location in early winter.  In Mountain areas or other short-season climates, where soil takes a long time to warm in spring, either plant in full sun to allow enough time for lilies to mature their leaves before an early winter—or only plant early-blooming Asiatics.

'After Eight' - shorter clones have limited bud counts.
Consider shorter growing varieties for shade.

In shady areas, choose shorter growing lilies, ideally not more than around 3 feet tall when grown in full sun, or you may end up needing to stake the stems.  Outfacing or pendant type flowers can be very attractive, even when the stem is leaning.  However, strongly upfacing flowers on taller-than-normal stems in shade will not be as pleasing, especially if the flowers are too high up and out of sight.

One thing to consider however, is that the naturally dwarf Oriental clones (two feet or less in height) tend to max out with only 3 to 5 flowers on a stem, even after becoming established in the garden, as opposed to their taller cousins that usually have larger flowers or more numerous blooms.  Therefore, you need to weigh the options carefully and perhaps choose medium height lilies (3 to 4 Feet) that are outfacing or are slightly up-facing and will not be damaged by low growing, overhead tree branches.

One solution for "too tall" is to plant at the edge of moderately raised deck (not second floor) where the flowers can peek over the rail.  This also works for established trumpet lilies, such as 'Pink Perfection', 'Golden Splendor', 'African Queen' and 'Lilium regale', that can top six feet in height after a couple of years, even in a sunnier locations, not just light shade.

At ground level, avoid rank-growing, invasive plants or perennials which smother emerging sprouts in the spring, in addition to overhanging trees and shrubs which steal light and nutrients.  If a network of tree or shrub roots is too dense to easily dig in an area you have chosen to grow lilies, consider planting the bulbs in pots.  Simply grow behind a garage or other out of the way place - then when the buds are just starting to open, arrange the potted plants near your outdoor living area or under the trees.

Full sun is best for 'Firebolt' because of the dark color.

Color selection is important.

Pale to medium tints of pink and yellow, as well as pure white and bi-colors show up best in part sun areas, even when viewed from a distance.  Varieties like 'Ormea', 'Nymph' and 'Bonbini' excel in light shade because there is enough light reflection to make them "pop" in the garden, plus they add a hint of color for interest.

Dark colored lilies like 'Sumatra', 'Rio Negro', and especially the mahogany-red 'Firebolt' are most effectively showcased in full sun.  (The photo on the right was lightened to show color contrast with the soil.)   Deep colors are not very good in low-light conditions—your nose may be aware of the fragrance—but the flowers will tend to blend into the background.

Eastern exposures and very bright indirect light is fine in all areas with any color, especially with lighter colored plants, since there is enough color contrast for a stunning display and stems will tend to grow straighter and more compact.

'Salmon Star' - good for pots.
Growing Lilies in Pots.

Is your ideal lily growing area in the wrong spot?  Does your entire yard have too much shade and the only sunny area is behind the garage or next to the trash can?  Growing lilies in pots may be a solution for your garden.

Keep the pots in sun until the buds begin to open, then move them to an outdoor living area for fragrance and color.  When the flowers have finished blooming, move the pots back to your sunnier area so the leaves can photosynthesize to mature the bulbs.  Winter protection for containerized lilies is very important, click on the link below to learn more.

Potting Instructions
Winter care of potted lilies

Monday, April 28, 2014

Potting Lily Bulbs in Spring

Quick Instructions from our Planting Guide:  When potting lily bulbs use one gallon of potting soil per mature bulb into a container with ample drainage holes 8 to 12 inches deep.  Lily bulbs make stem roots above the bulb, which are “feeder” roots and are grown new each season; the basal plate roots on the bulb bottom acts primarily as a counterweight to keep wind from toppling the stem, therefore the stem roots are the most important immediate concern.  In containers that are barely 8 inches deep, place bulbs almost on the bottom, so there will be at least 6 inches of soil covering the lilies, any less room and stem roots will not be able to form properly, which will severely limit the growth potential of your lily bulbs.
Large fiberglass/molded plastic pots, especially of double-wall construction are preferred, the larger soil mass acts as insulation during both winter cold and summer heat, plus there is room to plant trailing annuals  to drape over the sides and soften the lines.

Pre-moisten potting soil before filling your container.  Place bulbs, pointed top up, roots down, about 4 to 5 inches apart; any closer and you’ll need to divide more than every two to three years.  Put a small plastic label next to the bulb underground for future reference should the top label fade or be lost and cover your bulbs completely, lightly firming the soil.  Water just until you see moisture streaming out of the drainage holes and if needed, top off with fresh soil, leaving about two inches between soil and the top rim of the container.  Add a label topside for easy reference and do not water again until the potting soil is dry two inches below the surface.  Lily bulbs by their very nature are designed to store moisture in the fleshy scales that make up the bulb; they do not swim well, so if you allow their soil to stay constantly wet, the bulbs most likely will rot.

When sprouts emerge, sprinkle one tablespoon of balanced granular fertilizer around, but not touching sprouts.  Water pots as normal, repeating the fertilizer when the flowers are budded and just beginning to open.  We like 5-10-10 or similar formulas, but you can also use a time release mixed into the top two inches of soil.  This simple twice-a-year feeding will keep your lilies in prime shape for up to three years before bulbs need to be divided in autumn or winter.   Top dress in midsummer with compost or aged manure