by Pam Erikson/Special to Langley Advance Times
Lilies have always made their presence known in a perennial bed – tall, elegant flashes of varying colour, some with fragrance – but most needing a little support if not in full sun.
Years of breeding in Holland with lily bulbs has resulted in several new varieties through the last few years that offer the home gardener shorter, more compact varieties that require no support or staking – just plant them and enjoy.
One strain of lilies has become very popular with us – the Longiflorum Asiatics – new crosses developed between the Asiatic lilies and the old fashioned Longiflorum lilies.
This line of breeding has resulted in lilies with very strong stems and larger than usual blooms.
For the past few years, we have enjoyed these tall, strong lilies in our gardens, but this year we were thrilled to discover new dwarf varieties.
Not only do these hybrids have the same thick strong stems as their taller counterparts, and larger blooms, but they require no support whatsoever and the colours are stunning.
Two of the best we have ever seen are Summer Sky, a lovely deep pink with subtle yellow and white markings; and Summer Snow, with her huge white flowers that make other nearby plants just pop.
The Asiatic lilies have a nice big collection of dwarf varieties – this year we are loving Tiny Epic – with its very dramatic purple eye pattern.
In the spectrum of Oriental lilies, the best dwarf during the past two years has been Garden Party – a big white flower with red and yellow markings.
Whether planting tall or short lilies, just remember that they enjoy well-drained soil and lots of sunshine.
Be sure to feed them a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer in late April – when they are about three to four feet tall; and then feed again with a high phosphorus fertilizer (something like a 3-15-6) when they are in bloom.
This will help to replenish the bulb in order to produce even more flowers next year. When blooms are finished, just cut off the spent flowers at the top and allow the rest of the foliage to turn brown naturally – this also feeds the bulbs.
You can also grow in containers but be sure to have lots of perlite in the potting mix for drainage as they do not like to sit in a lot of moisture through the winter.
Lilies are so easy and can give years of enjoyment throughout the summer – just plant the right varieties for your space.
– Pam Erikson is owner of Erikson’s Daylily Gardens and Perennials and president of the Langley Garden Club