Gardening Blog

Gardening Blog: Lilies - Part 1

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This article covers the types of lilies available, their characteristics and how they can be used to advantage in a backyard garden.

When I was first in possession of a house that allowed me to make long term garden plans, I grew roses, as did my father. I had over one hundred bushes, hybrid tea roses in the main; colors and patterns and petal arrangements my dad wouldnít have dreamed possible.

I was growing roses on the northern edge of the coldest climate zone possible and I lost a number of bushes every year to the thaw and freeze cycle of the area. The largest problem however, could not be foreseen nor was it correctable. There was a row of Blue Spruce trees growing down the Southern side of my lot and over ten years they grew and threw shade over half of my garden. This lower light level inhibited the roses blooming and combined with a couple of truly awful winters, killed over half of my plants in two short seasons. It was time to switch to a new focus in my garden, but what? The answer was lilies.

It turned out that I had a lily grower, hybridizer and breeder in my area who was happy to dispense growing tips and species information as well as selling a vast number of purpose bred bulbs. They also had an area where they threw small, damaged or mis-bred blubs and plants to sink or swim on their own. These cross bred randomly and some of the most spectacular lilies were reclaimed from this waste land.

Here are the main species sold by my lily hybridizer and re-seller. You can buy bulbs from grocery stores, plants from garden centers in the Spring and even from department stores like Wal-Mart. Be sure that the bulbs are plump (well hydrated), firm and free of mold or rot. Not only will damaged bulbs grow poorly, what ever is infecting them may target plants already in your garden.

Lily Types

Daylilies: Are the lilies with which you are probably most familiar. They grow in clumps and almost every garden with have a patch somewhere. They grow in full sunshine or partial shade and work marvelously well as accents in a dull corner of your plot. The roots hold onto the soil tenaciously and they are often used to stabilize hillsides. The clumps of bulbs expand quickly, so unless you have an acre or more to indulge them, you will have to cut Daylilies back firmly to avoid them taking over your garden. The off cuts make great gifts, especially if you have an unusual colour or pattern.

Asiatic Lilies: make up the bulk of the lilies on sale at your garden centre or grocery store. They have by far the largest number of colours and forms and are hands down the hardiest of the species. The shortest varieties are called Pixies and make idea container plants.

Oriental Lilies: Are hands down, the most spectacular lilies in the garden. The blooms grow up to 8 inches in diameter, are colorful and very fragrant. Well-drained, sandy or sandy loam soil is a requirement for these plants.

L.A. Hybrid Lilies: These lilies are a cross between the Easter Lily and Asiatic lilies. They are very hardy, have large robust blooms and represent the latest achievement of the breeders art.

Tiger Lilies: Are also of the Asiatic family. They have re-curved petals, (curving down around the flower trumpet), many with flowers that hang downwards.

Tango Hybrid Lilies: These hybrid plants are part of the Asiatic family, but sport vivid, almost violent colors and a unique freckling in the throat of the flower. sport vivid, almost loud colored

Species Lilies: Species lilies are wild lilies that grow over most of the world, especially in Asia. The ones sold for gardens are hybridized from among this group of cultivars.

Growing Lilies

Lilies are quite easy to grow, no matter what the skill level of the gardener. They prefer loamy, friable soil, but if the soil in the planting hole is well broken up and fertilized on planting, will thrive pretty much anywhere once established. They only appreciate fertilizer once a year, as early as possible, when the tips of the canes push through the earth and you can see clearly where they are located.

Lilies all grow long stalks, some a single wand like an arrow, others a central stem with offshoots at intervals like a candelabra. At the end of each of the branches will grow a flower or flowers. In turn after blooming seed pods will form where the flower was. They can be dried and saves to provide a pot-luck of different cross-breeds, but most people donít save them as itís a lot of work. What is necessary is to cut out the stock once the pods start to form. This sends the energy made by the leaves into growing more bulbs instead of seeds and the lilies will be dividable earlier of you follow this advice.

Other than that, cleaning up dead foliage in the Fall and Spring and clearly identifying where your plants are to avoid driving a hoe or spade through them is about all you need to know.

Lilies are hardy, colorful and come in a variety of sizes for making your beds look spectacular. In addition, they are part of a Great Garden, well within the skills of an absolute beginner.
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