A Royal Fantasy

In the predawn, the camera insists on going outside…

…for something magical is occurring.

It happens every year, but never before like this.

Not this many, not all at once.

The camera beeps menacingly, “Raise the flash”. There is not enough light. We must wait for those golden threads to shine just right on the pure petals. Time moves agonizingly slow.

In just seconds it goes from not enough to too much light. There is no miracle moment of just right.

Hours pass from morning to afternoon. Whites melt to rich, warm butter. The lowest patch, growing where it is the most shaded of the row, is last to open.

A new dawn brings yet more openings.

Darker and taller prepare to join in.

None yet are fading or folding, it is the pinnacle.

Perfection has been reached.

Sweet remembrance captured in pixels as we left for the beach holiday. We know it will be over upon return. And it was.


Lightly scented Longiflorum Asiatic Lilium ‘Royal Fantasy’, so aptly named, was added to the Fairegarden in the fall of 2004. Ten bulbs total, one in each hole, two feet apart along the eastern edge of the daylily hill were planted. They have become over one hundred, to the delight of all who gaze upon them. The Financier asked, “Do they usually look like this?” The answer, “Never before, possibly never again.”

(Added in 2014: The Royal Fantasy gala has continued to increase in numbers over the years, each year better than the previous ones.)

(Photos taken June 7, 8, and 10, 2010)


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46 Responses to A Royal Fantasy

  1. Sylvia (England) says:

    Frances, breath taking and beautiful. I love lilies and if it wasn’t for the horrible lily beetle I would grow more but I am trying very hard not to buy any. But when I see a display like your I get tempted, very tempted. Congratulations on having the patience to wait for the right light for these magnificent pictures and many thanks for sharing them.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)
    PS I am still dithering over where to plant my spare day lilies, I now have several places in mind!

    Thanks Sylvia. I have read some info about that dreaded beetle, to see what it looks like so it can be squashed when or if it shows up here. So far, no sign of it, thank goodness, for we have many many lilies and keep adding more. Patient I was not, just kept taking hundreds of shots but only the ones with some light were any good. You are so funny about those daylilies! You remind me of my friend Gail who keeps things in pots forever, trying to find the perfect spot for them. I am of the plant it immediately school, if it doesn’t work out it can be moved. At my house, plants are much better off in the ground. (To Gail, you are in my thoughts)

  2. Jen says:

    WOW,absolutely beautiful!!!

    Thanks Jen. That is exactly the sentiment I had when these were blooming. Knowing they would be gone when we returned from the beach made them that much more beautiful.

  3. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Be still my heart. What a beautiful sight. It makes me want to get out there and plant a row of lilies. Great job of capturing their essence.

    Thanks Lisa. I do believe you should plant a row of lilies. They thrive in the partial shade of the daylily hill here. I am sure you have a good place for some. πŸ™‚

  4. Sylvia (England) says:

    Frances, you are so right, I do keep things in pots for ages! But I see I am in good company, Gail is also in my thoughts – a difficult time for her and her family. I do get nervous about putting plants in the ground during summer when it can be dry – I have lost a lot of plants at this time of year – well that is my excuse for today! Also I haven’t dug out the other plants to put the day lilies in beside the pavement, it is unlikely that a fork would go into the ground it is so hard and dry. I have such a long list of things to do, but I hope to move a oriental poppy at the weekend. That is a plant that I find can be moved after it has flowered.

    Best wishes Sylvia

    Aha, just like Gail! I am constantly on her to plant that stuff, to no avail. Full of excuses! lol Poppies love to be moved after blooming in the heat of summer as they go dormant, the best time to move them actually. No excuses! πŸ™‚
    Warmest regards as we all send comforting thoughts to dear Gail and her family,

  5. Barbara H. says:

    Wow, thanks for another fantastic voyage. This was a stupendous waking up gift this morning!

    Thanks Barbara, glad you liked it. I will be viewing these shots for some time to come, they fill me with joy. πŸ™‚

  6. Valerie says:

    The lilies are really gorgeous and such a large grouping to give it punch. Beautiful.

    Hi Valerie, thanks. The lilies have certainly turned into a large grouping, very gratifying and a favorite here. πŸ™‚

  7. What a great patch of lilies–I like the Asiatic foliage better than the daylily foliage–it looks so prehistoric.

    Thanks Monica. I like the Lilium foliage as well, but am learning to love the daylily foliage which turns a golden yellow in fall, another plus for it sometimes overlooked. πŸ™‚

  8. Randy says:

    Oh those do make a WOW. great display and from 10 bulbs in just 4 years. You must have the right soil and growing conditions there.

    Thanks Randy. You comment got me thinking if there was about anything special about the planting and/or siting. The daylily hill is terribly dry and gets morning sun. At the time of planting bone meal was put in the hole. There were five tulip Silverstream bulbs and one lily in each hole. Leaves from the silver maple are left to decompose and the hill has been mulched heavily a couple of times with soil conditioner. We had fabulous rains last fall and winter. That’s all I know. πŸ™‚

  9. Rose says:

    What a beautiful display of lilies, Frances! Moments like these don’t come very often as you say, so I’m glad that you were able to capture this show before you left for your vacation. It’s amazing this this began with only ten bulbs.
    I know you’re an early riser, but still I’m impressed that you are up before dawn to take photos. Even if I’m up by 6 AM, it seems the sun is already so high in the sky that it’s impossible to get good photos of blooms.
    Playing catch-up today…enjoyed all your “visitors” to the garden. Now that all my coneflowers are in bloom, I’d have to say they are the all-time favorite of every winged creature in my garden.

    Thanks Rose. I was thinking about the time of sunrise here, we are located just a few miles from the time change line from eastern to central, that may play a part in my being able to see the sunrise every morning. Also the way my house is situated, trees and hills block the sun until a little later than some other places locally. Hooray for your beautiful coneflowers! πŸ™‚

  10. Turling says:

    “Wow” is about the only thing I can think of.

    Thanks Turling, it seems appropriate, the lilies were amazing.

  11. Teresa O says:

    Oh those golden moments of light in the early morning and you’ve captured it with such magic on your Royal Fantasy lilies. Dreamy photos. *sigh*

    Hi Teresa, thanks so much. I do love the earliest morning, but my camera rebels against the low light. The lilies don’t care either way, human eyes or pixels, they were gorgeous this year. πŸ™‚

  12. nancybond says:

    What beautiful abundance! It looks like a fantasy garden. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks Nancy, it was special this year, a true fantasy like the name. πŸ™‚

  13. Monica says:

    Just gorgeous. Such a wonderful treat for the eyes!

    Thanks Monica, glad you enjoyed the lilies. πŸ™‚

  14. Jen says:

    Breathtaking. What a garden memory you have, those are so beautiful.

    Good for you for getting up early, especially at this time of year, to capture them.


    Thanks Jen. I was lucky to find the receipt from Van Engelen, I had no idea what year they were bought. I am up early anyway, sad to say, whether there is something wonderful to photograph or not. I do love early mornings in summer before the heat of the day has moved in and the birds are singing to welcome the sun. Worth getting up for. πŸ™‚

  15. Ibrahim says:

    Frances I shan’t say amazing as I’ve come to expect the best from you always πŸ™‚

    Really beautiful lilies. I loved the ones on the side of the hill walk. What lucky lilies they are, to have Frances to nurture them, capture their beauty in pixels and then write so eloquently about them!
    BTW any advice on when to buy Lilium bulbs (asiatic )

    Thanks for sharing & all the best

    Thanks for those kind words, Ibrahim. In the US, now is the best time to order bulbs, I have already placed one order, for more lilies of course. The company will ship them at the proper planting time, for our zone it will be October. My garden is already quite full, but there is always room for more lilies, they take up very little space, being all vertical. πŸ™‚

  16. Shirley says:

    I love your musings and photgraphy. It is doubly wonderful because I’m in southern Alberta, Canada. I just planted lilies four weeks ago. If they bring as much joy as this I will have to plant more. MOve over,peonies and iris, here comes another beauty for the garden. Thanks for your inspiration. I get your post early in the day and appreciate starting it with beauty and joy.

    Oh thank you Shirley! I am so glad you enjoy the posts, I do love putting them together. Lilies are fabulous, so easy and they take up little room in a small space. May yours give you delight for weeks on end. πŸ™‚

  17. ellada says:

    Wow !!! Fantastic.
    So many Lilies in one place. I loved it.

    Hi Ellada, thanks and welcome. I am glad you enjoyed the lilies. I certainly enjoyed your sister’s jewelry! πŸ™‚

  18. gittan says:

    Wow! So many and so beautiful with the morning light… Thanks for listening to you camera =)

    Hi Gittan, thanks, so nice to see you. I try to listen to the cameras, they can be quite insistent sometimes. πŸ™‚
    Kram, Frances

  19. Joey says:

    Heavenly, Frances. Where did June go? Well, here’s to Happy July gardens πŸ™‚

    Hi Jeoy, thanks. You are so right, this year is racing by. Maybe it is all that traveling, and more to come. Happy July to you and yours. πŸ™‚

  20. Barbarapc says:

    Frances, it’s at moments when I read posts like this one that I am completely mystified that there is a living human who has soil at the edge of his or her door who doesn’t garden. For all the bugs; the plants that don’t quite make it; and those that overwhelm, there are those heaven on earth points in time in the garden that just make it all worthwhile.

    Hi Barbara, you have said it so well, thanks! I can barely stand to be indoors, even when it is hot or cold or raining, wish it would do that last one. I simply cannot NOT garden, it would be impossible. But I know that everyone is not so wired, too bad. They are truly missing out on such a joyful enterprise.

  21. What a wonderful show of lilies and light! The beacons of beauty are like twinkling lights along your garden path.

    Very poetic, Freda, thanks! The lilies were incredible. I took more photos of them than has ever been taken of anything with the exception possibly of baby grandkids. πŸ™‚

  22. Oh Frances,

    The lilies are just breathtaking! I love how you captured how the changing light created different colors.

    Hi Noelle, thanks so much for those kind words. The light at different times of day plays games with the colors, doesn’t it? I do so love the early morning when everything is a little hazy in the dim light, like a dream. πŸ™‚

  23. sequoiagardens says:

    What lucky lilies they are, to have Frances to nurture them, capture their beauty in pixels and then write so eloquently about them!

    Goodness, Jack, what sweet words you write! Thank you. I do love those lilies. πŸ™‚

  24. VW says:

    Breathtaking! Such gorgeous shots. Some of my lilies have strange looking leaves this year, and I can’t figure out if it’s caused by virus or bugs. So I’ll wait a while before tossing them out.

    Hi VW, thanks. I am sorry to hear about your lilies, both bug or virus are bad things. Hope it is neither.

  25. You remind me to keep camera near-to-hand at all times. That magical moment can come…then go…in the blink of an eye. I have missed many of them but you have more than made up for it here.

    Hi Ricki, thanks, so nice to see you. We do keep the cameras by the door, to run in quickly when something wonderful happens. As for the lily shots, both cameras took hundreds of shots over the three days. I never could get a shot the way it really looked in person.

  26. Makes a gardener’s heart skip a beat…if not stop for a moment altogether to see such beauty open all at once! Stunning! Kim

    Hi Kim, thanks. So nice to see you. It was a special time, never have so many been open together, with nary a spent bloom, amazing. πŸ™‚

  27. Phillip says:

    I’ve never seen so many blooms on lilies – do you fertilize? Those are stunning.

    Hi Phillip, thanks. I remember putting bone meal in the hole in the initial planting and may have put some slow release on the whole bed in January once, that’s it. The leaves from the overhanging silver maple are allowed to compost each year. I believe it was the abundant rain we had last fall and winter that made the difference this time. They are always pretty, but not like this with so many blooms at one time.

  28. Beautiful, Frances. They truly are “royal”.

    Hi Heather, thanks. They are well named. πŸ™‚

  29. Jenn-na-na says:

    Hi Frances,
    Lilies are my absolute favorite and this display is just breathtaking. Thank you so much for sharing them!

    Hi Jenn, thanks so much and welcome. I can understand how lilies are your favorites, they are unique in the flower world. πŸ™‚

  30. tina says:

    Royal Fantasy is one for my list. It is simply a spectacular show! I bet next year will be even better too:)

    Hi Tina, thanks. I cannot recommend this one highly enough. I see that the place where I got mine, Van Engelen is not offering them this year for some reason. Keep trying to find them, worth the effort. πŸ™‚

  31. Marian says:

    Wow! Fireworks at dawn. Thank you for getting up early for us!

    Hi Marian, thanks so much. I am up anyway, but it is a nice thought that I did it for the blogdom! πŸ™‚

  32. Pam/Digging says:

    Gorgeous in full bloom. Way to be patient for that sunlight to light them up.

    Hi Pam, thanks. The camera forced me to be patient, I didn’t want to be but the photos were so blurry, if the camera would even click the shutter without the flash, which ruined the shot.

  33. commonweeder says:

    Lilies are so glamorous! Yours are simply stunning. Deer got my fabulous Casa Blancas but others will still bloom. As for lily beetles I have heard that Spinosad will kill them. It is worth looking for and giving it a try.

    Thanks Pat. I am so sorry about your Casa Blancas, what a tragic loss, but glad there are others for you to still enjoy. I looked up the lily beetle to see what it looks like so I can be ready. So far nothing, but forewarned is forearmed. πŸ™‚

  34. Sunita says:

    Frances, this has to be one of your most stunning posts E-V-E-R! I’m speechless! I can only think in terms of exclamation marks. What an absolute showstopper…. sigh!

    Hi Sunita, thanks so much. Glad you liked the lilies, they were simply incredible, like never before although they are always pretty. πŸ™‚

  35. Laurrie says:

    I am usually not a fan of asiatic lilies, but you have made me a convert. The early dawn photos are stunning. My problem with lilies here is that they usually look like little stubs of stunted stems after the rabbits and deer get done with them. I couldn’t even imagine the huge drifts like you have. Beautiful!

    Hi Laurrie, nice to see you. These are no ordinary asiatics, but the hybrid Longiflorum of the Chinese trumpets mixed with the early blooming shorter stature asiatics. There is some scent and the flowers and so plentiful, even in the first years after they were planted. Nothing like this year though. We don’t have deer here, thank goodness and the rabbits don’t bother them either. They are too busy eating my strawberries.

  36. Jake says:

    Very beautiful! I prefer sunrise to sunset myself so I loved the pictures.


    Hi Jack, so nice to see you. Another morning person, there’s nothing like it. πŸ™‚

  37. I don’t know what time sunrise is where you are but I admire your determination. I say that, though I too would be up at the crack of dawn for a sight like that.It’s great first thing, it feels like you have the world to yourself.

    Beautiful all those lillies blooming together. It’s funny how some things have better years than others and often without rhyme or reason.

    Hi Rob, thanks. I am a Taurus, determination is in my every fiber, lol, but I am up quite early anyway, always before sunrise. I like seeing the sun illuminate the earth, so fresh and new, a miracle really. I am pretty sure the extra rains of fall and winter had something to do with the bounteous blooms on the lilies and hydrangeas.

  38. Just lovely Frances. Makes me want to try them again. I just don’t have very good luck though. I wonder if it is because your temps are more moderated. Hope you enjoyed the beach holiday.~~Dee

    Thanks Dee. We are not feeling very moderate in temp, or rainfall at the moment, or even when the lilies were blooming. And yet they grow.

  39. kimberly says:

    My dear, I cannot believe this vision of heaven abides in your yard!!! What a fantastic blessing!! I’m in shock over the quality, quantity, color, romance, texture…all of it!! I can only imagine the fragrant perfume that must be rising up from the creamy blooms. WOW!!!!!!!

    Thanks Kimberly, it was wonderful. Like never before, so many blooms all at once. I didn’t want to go in the house, ever! πŸ™‚

  40. I love garden stories with happy endings – what an incredible display from your 10 original bulbs! And how right you are to enjoy it to the fullest, for who knows what will happen next year?

    I’ve been toying with the notion of getting ‘Royal Fantasy’ and I think this post has tipped me over the edge.

    Hi Pomona, thanks. I would highly recommend Royal Fantasy to anyone that can grow lilies. This year we added Royal Sunset with pink/orange blooms. It is the first I had seen more of the Royal series of LA hybrids, at Breck and Becky’s. I see they are not offered for the fall from them, maybe next spring.

  41. Ibrahim says:

    I am getting addicted to this post .

    Wish I said :
    “What lucky lilies they are, to have Frances to nurture them, capture their beauty in pixels and then write so eloquently about them! ” πŸ™‚

    And through the magic of wordpress, now you did. πŸ™‚

  42. Lola says:

    Oh my, what a show. They look so elegant.
    Mine aren’t blooming yet. But they do have buds.
    I don’t know their name as they came with the house. They do seem to travel a bit.

    Thanks Lola. Glad to hear you have some lilies to enjoy as well, and you didn’t even have to plant them! πŸ™‚

  43. noel says:

    aloha frances,

    morning time is an exceptional timeframe to be out and photograph your flowers especially those rare moments when the lighting is just right and the plants are screaming take this picture now, it won’t last that long and you did capture those golden moments…love the large stand of asiatics, its quite spectacular

    Aloha Noel, thanks for visiting. You sound like a fellow morning lover. The light, the freshness, the flowers, it is the best time of day and oh so short lived. Those lilies had a particularly good year. πŸ™‚

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    • Karen says:

      Wow! I am so glad I found this post. It is snowing here in Iowa, and I am dreaming of spring, and am dreaming of your Royal Fantasy Lilies. I know that Lilly will be on my list. So many beautiful Lilly’s from 10 bulbs. Unbelievable !!! I really enjoy your blog and your beautiful garden. Thank you for making my day!! Peace.

      Hi Karen, thanks for visiting. These are the most prolific lilies I have ever grown, and there are a lot of different lilies growing here. Good luck with yours and hurry up Spring!

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