Excite with exotic lilies

Lilies are a fixture in prairie gardens but common species have steadily been replaced by more exotic varieties.


The first to arrive was the asiatic lily, followed by martagon.


The oriental lily, the queen of the lilies, became available but the results were disappointing because the plants were not hardy and succumbed to the harsh climate. Lily breeders have since created much hardier varieties.


Oriental lilies are considered regal because of their 15 centimetre bloom size and intoxicating fragrance. Most are more than a metre high, with stout, sturdy stems and large, waxy leaves. 


Blooms can face up, down or out but I prefer those facing up and displaying their beautiful colours.


Oriental lilies, like other lilies, prefer full sun and a rich, well-drained soil. 


Heavy clay soils should be amended with sand and humus before planting lilies. I add sand to the planting hole so that water does not collect around the roots.


Another attraction of oriental lilies is their later bloom time in August and early September. This extends the lily season. 


Tiger and martagon lilies bloom in early July while the asiatics are finished by the end of July. 


Oriental lilies are tall but do not require support and make good, long-lasting cut flower arrangements. The spent lower blooms can be removed, allowing the upper blooms to open.


Oriental lilies are not quite as hardy as asiatics, tiger lilies and martagons. 


In late October after a hard frost but before the ground freezes, I add dry compost or soil on top of the lily bed to a depth of three to four cm. 


I then add dry leaves (about 30 cm deep), then stretch plastic over top. I allow air to get under the plastic to prevent moisture buildup. A piece of rigid Styrofoam could serve the same purpose.

Albert Parsons has a diploma in horticulture from the University of Guelph and maintains a flourishing garden at Minnedosa, Man. Contact: countrygarden@producer.com.