Lilies: One of My Favorite Summer Flowers

– Posted in: Garden Plants

It’s probably not a very cutting edge thing to say in today’s fast paced world of horticulture. But I’ll say it anyway. I’m still a sucker for lilies. This includes both daylilies as well as oriental and asian lilies.

When I first began gardening, a friend of mine brought over a huge bucket of daylilies and advised me to plant them in the sun. Needless to say, they took off with abandon! The thing I love most about daylilies….besides the fact that they fill in huge patches of empty space readily, complement practically any plants with which they are paired, come in a wide array of colors and continue to bloom endlessly (as long as the dead stalks are removed)….is that they can be planted anywhere. I truly mean that. When I first started planting them in partial shade and then onward into deep shade, I wondered what would happen. Well, I’ve never been let down! Regardless of the soil, moisture or sun/shade conditions, these stalwarts of the garden add a richness and glory to practically any garden I’ve ever seen.

In doing a bit of reading about daylilies, I was surprised to discover that it is a genus of only 13-15 species . But what really took me by surprise is that Hemerocallis has over 50,000 named cultivars. I remember when I first saw a red daylily, I thought that it was unusual and a bit ‘avant garde’. I had been used to the pale peaches, crisp yellows and tangerine shades of ‘Stella de Oro’. But whoever thought that we would be privy to daylilies with palettes that include soft pinks and lavenders? One of my favorites, ‘Catherine Woodbury’, is described by Alan Russell of Russell Gardens as ‘orchid lavender-pink with a lime green throat’. It is an absolutely divine perennial that looks breathtaking with burgundy leaved plants.

When it comes to Lilies (Lilium), I don’t know remember which ones I order from year to year. All I know is that when I start perusing Brent and Becky’s Bulb catalogue, I invariably end up putting some check marks next to more than a few varieties of lilies. I ultimately purchase whatever colors I am most focused on accentuating in my garden that year.

Boogie Woogie Lily with Golden Hops Vine (Humulus)This year, I bought ‘Boogie Woogie’, an Oriental/Trumpet lily which is described as creamy. But I would call it pale yellow. It can be treated as a ‘basic’ color in the garden, able to be positioned in a vignette with plants of any color. Although it may be unconventional, I like to position the tall lilies closer to the front of a border. Because they have such a lean stature, they can afford to be ‘in your face’, especially with the scent that they offer as one walks past them. When they are in full bloom, they deserve to get all the attention that they crave!

Red Hot Lily next to banana plant and persicariaI also chose another Oriental/Trumpet called ‘Red Hot’ this spring. In the catalogue, either Brent or Becky describe it as not being red at all but as ‘HOT’, the color of a really hot, glowing fire. Well, I’ve got to tell you that my ‘Red Hot’ lilies certainly are not hot. BUT they are dreamy and lovely.

So, the next time you’re at your nursery and you give a yawn as you quickly pass by the classic, enduring daylilies and rush on to check out the latest ‘must have’ perennials, take a few moments to reflect what will serve your garden best in the long run. I bet at least some of the time that lilies or daylilies will end up in your cart.

And for those of you who are daylily or lily lovers, send us links to any photos that you’ve compiled of your collection so that others can get on to your site to see your beauties.

Fran Sorin
The 10th Anniversary Edition of Fran's classic book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, has recently been published. Updated with a new foreword by the renowned author, Larry Dossey, M.D., it has dozens of endorsements from renowned spiritual, gardening, and personal development authors and experts in their fields. A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology and One Spirit Interfaith Seminary, Fran is a renowned gardening expert, passionate gardener, deep ecologist, inspirational speaker, ordained interfaith minister, soul tending coach, and CBS Radio news contributor. See less Google+ | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest
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Colleen Vanderlinden July 11, 2008, 7:58 am

Ah, see, Fran—while we disagreed regarding mums, we are in total agreement about lilies. I posted about the same thing last week.

Now I’m going to look up some of the varieties you mentioned. Great post!

Colleen-
LOL….my hunch is that we probably agree on alot more than what we disagree on. But disagreeing with you is a pleasure….it’s good to have different opinions…it gets everyone involved. But I do like the fact that you’re a lily lover!! (: Fran

Karen July 11, 2008, 8:06 am

Lilies are one of my favorites too.. and dare I say becoming more so every year. :)

Karen-
In your latest post with all of those wonderful photos, as well as the moving story, I saw the one photo of the yellow lilies…my hunch is that they are asiatic…but perhaps someone else who is better with nomenclature will get onto your website and let us know what they are. Fran

lawremc July 11, 2008, 9:17 am

Oooh! I’ve got daylilies and orientals as well. I love them all. But let’s not forget my favorite—the tiger lily. Just love that plant—always reminds me of my grandmother’s garden in middle Georgia.

Lawremc-
Good point about the tiger lily…..I don’t remember when the first time was that I saw them….but it does feel interspersed with childhood memories. If you have photos of any of them that you’d like to share, please send on a link! Fran

Meryl July 11, 2008, 10:06 am

I generally dislike daylilies. Every one plants this orange kind in my area that only looks good for about a day and then just gets scraggy. But yours are very nice looking–I particularly like the red and the pink ones. Do you know what kind they are?

Meryl-
My guess is that you are referring to the Stella D’oro daylily which is a kind of tangerine/orange daylily which everyone in the suburbs seems to be using these days. I used to love it but have tired of it. Daylilies in general don’t need to get scraggly if you buy the right types and continue to cut off the stalks! But I appreciate your honest opinion….after all, who says that you have to like ‘em??? Fran

Catherine, My Garden Travels July 11, 2008, 10:29 am

Last year, I received a white Easter Lily as a gift. Normally, I throw them out after they flower, but I decided to plant it in the garden. Well, it’s flowering, and putting on quite a show, with multiple branching. I think next year after Easter, I might go trash picking, and rescue all those abandoned Easter Lillies.

Catherine-
Great story…and a good reminder to all of us that what is one person’s trash is another person’s treasures….it shows you what a little love and nurturing will do. Thanks for sharing! Fran

mss @ Zanthan Gardens July 11, 2008, 5:06 pm

I have only one lily, an asiatic hybrid, ‘Spirit’ that’s survived in my garden over the years. Or at least the original was ‘Spirit’, which was buff. Now a white version comes back. These photos are old but the lily still survives. It always blooms around Week 20.

I’ve tried other LA hybrids and even daylilies (which I dislike). Killed them all. I now find it cheaper just to buy cut oriental lilies…which are my favorite but don’t like Austin’s climate. At the moment, I don’t care much for it either.

mss @ Zanthan Gardens-
Thanks for sharing those photos of ‘Spirit’. Both were lovely. It’s amazing how certain bulbs/plants survive and others just seem to vanish from one year to the next. Hey – I like your strategy of buying cut oriental lilies. I can only imagine the heat that you’re experiencing in Austin in mid-July! Stay cool! Fran

Mr. McGregor's Daughter July 11, 2008, 6:16 pm

The Daylilies have just started blooming in my garden, so a post will be coming soon. I also grow mine in shade. They don’t bloom as profusely, but they shine in the shade garden. I love all the Lilies too. I only have 3 kinds, an Asiatic, a Trumpet & an Oriental. The Trumpets perfume the whole garden.

Mr. McGregor’s Daughter-
Excellent point that they shine in the shade. And the truth is because they don’t bloom as profusely there, it’s almost as if those that do bloom stand out more (does that make sense?) And yes, I do love that overly perumed scent of the Trumpets…it’s divine. Thanks for your comments. Fran

Frances July 11, 2008, 7:47 pm

Hi Fran, so glad to see lilies and daylilies in your garden. I have the orienpet Satisfaction, and I am very satisfied. I also at the same time got orienpet Honeymoon, they have never bloomed and barely even have foliage. We have seventy five cultivars of daylilies. The garden wouldn’t be the same without them. We will be ordering more again this year also, more species this time.

Frances,
I can’t believe that you have 75 cultivars of daylilies. Would you mind sending over a link of some photos of them if they are easy enough to access? I would love for our readers to be able to see your collection. How do you go about making your choices each year? Fran

Gail July 11, 2008, 10:02 pm

I have oriental lilies..Stargazer and an all white, both perfume the garden during the day and all night long. Luna moths visit and they are so much fun to watch. I planted the stargazer last fall and am so pleased with how much they add to a shady spot. The daylilies are finishing up for the season; they are in sun and shade…I haven’t as many as Frances but I do love them

Gail-
Thanks for trumpeting their scent. Have never observed the visits of Luna moths. Will look for them now because of what you wrote! Fran

Lisa at Greenbow July 12, 2008, 12:57 pm

Hi Fran, I too have lots of dayllilies. I just finished a second post about them. I also have a couple of the other type of lilies. I will show them at some time. Here is the link to my last daylily post. The other is just the post before. Sorry I can’t seem to make a proper link.
http://greenbowgardens.blogspot.com/2008/07/larger-daylilies.html

Lisa-
I left a message on your blog. Phenomenal selection for anyone who is interested in checking out more daylilies! Fran