I have to admit, until recently I was not fond of lilies. In fact, I disliked them so much that I instructed my entire family to ensure that, on some glad morning when my life is over (and I fly away), there are no lilies in any of my funeral sprays. I know that is a little weird but I evidently have some early childhood trauma associated with funerals. To this day, when I smell that sweet, sweet smell of a lily I am thrust back in time to my grandmother’s wake and funeral. Having her body in the house and the smell of all of those lilies evidently scarred my little seven year old psyche.
Recently, I have begun to rethink my aversion to these truly beautiful flowers. Last year when we were in Tulsa, we visited the gardens at the Gilcrease Museum. The beds surrounding Thomas Gilcrease’s house were scattered with clumps and clumps of some very beautiful Oriental lilies. I was so taken with them that I began to rethink my aversion.
The reason I am writing about lilies now is because I have a beautiful orange Oriental lily blooming in the potager. The funny thing is, I don’t know where it came from. I certainly didn’t buy it. My best guess is someone gave it to my wife as a gift and after the bloom faded I just stuck it in the ground. Well, if that is what happened I am certainly glad that it did.
Lilies are a lot like roses when it comes to their importance in almost all cultures. These flowers have been grown, loved, painted, written about, carved and sculpted by people all over the world for thousands of years. White lilies have a special place for all Christians. No Easter celebration is complete without pots and pots of pure white Easter Lilies on the altar or pulpit.
It is almost impossible to go into a Catholic Church and not see lilies. Because they represent innocence, chastity and purity, they are often seen either in Mary’s hands or somewhere very close to her. Legend says that the first lilies sprang forth from Eve’s tears as she cried repentantly while being expelled from the garden. Since Mary is often called the new Eve (who bore the fruit that redeemed us from sin) she always has a lily nearby.
Many flowers that have lily in their name are not lilies at all. Daylilies are members of the genus Hemerocalis and Oxblood lilies belong to the genus Rodaphiala. True lilies belong to the genus Lilium. Lilies are perennials that grow from bulbs that are typically deeply buried. When planting lilies it is recommended that you plant them 2 ½ times as deep as the bulb is tall. Lilies like full sun and average moisture. An inch a week during their growing period is fine.
Lilies reproduce by seeds and rhizomes. Some species even put out stolons. These rhizomes form new bulbs. After a few seasons a single bulb can create a very large and thick clump. When this happens it is a good idea to dig them up and divide them in the fall of the year.
One of a lilies most recognizable features are their prominent reproductive organs in the middle of the flower. The pollen covered stamens are lovely to look at and dance in the breeze. However, if you want to use your lilies in an arrangement, you need to remove the stamens. Some lily pollen will stain a pure white bridal gown. Plus, removing the stamens will actually extend the life of the cut flower.
My “accidental” lily has been a bright spot in my spring time garden. It is truly beautiful and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching it bloom. However, no matter how pretty it is, I still don’t want any of them at my funeral!