The Lily Experiment

Cream with freckles

It was an end of season impulse purchase. One hundred LA hybrid lilies, Lilium ‘Summer Breeze Mixture’, were offered for a ridiculously low price late last fall from Van Engelen, one of several bulb emporiums that I patronize. These would make a fine gift to share with my gardening offspring, each getting a bag of twenty-five, with the same number for the Fairegarden.

LA hybrid lilies Royal Fantasy and Royal Sunset

The LA hybrids, a genetic mix of Longifolium and Asiatic lilies, have proven to be perfect for the conditions here. Lilium ‘Royal Fantasy’ and L. ‘Royal Sunset’ have done quite well. They are early blooming, sweetly scented, not so tall as to need staking, beautiful, upward facing trumpet-shaped blooms of good substance and long lasting, and best of all, rapidly increasing each year for beaucoup blooms. All good.


The large, fat bulbs arrived in late November. There had already been several frosts and it was getting colder. One of the few places with room for that many bulbs and fairly easy digging was at the end of the blueberry box behind the shed. The box had been reconfigured to allow room for a pathway and seemed the perfect spot to stash the lilies quickly.


The plan was to stuff them close together with the intent of sorting them for permanent planting after the colors were revealed the next spring. It worked. As each stalk flowered, ribbons and string were attached and photos were taken.


The time has come to dig them up and place them where the colors will best blend into the surroundings. The foliage was left to ripen and feed the bulbs for future blooming. It is now turning yellow and dying back. Now where is that color chart I surely made?


Oops, no list, no chart could be found in the notebook of loose papers that include receipts, notes, journals and purchase lists. But there were photos in a folder on the laptop of all the lily blooms for 2012, thank goodness. Detective work showed there were five different varieties, each with ribbons attached to mark one from the other.

In a code that only I could understand, the color of each flower, the color of ribbon/thread used to denote that color and the location proposed to plant that color was written down. There has been rain, with more in the forecast. Today is the day for this plan to come to fruition, with the reward being postponed until next May/June. Let us dig now, replant in the chosen beds and dream of summer breezes in 2013.

Not everyone would go to this trouble to separate the lilies by colors and replant, my offspring don’t have the time nor inclination to do so. They just tucked the bulbs into their gardens and enjoyed the flowers. As the title suggests, my planting was an experiment. The results will be tallied next year.


This entry was posted in Plant Portrait, Projects. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to The Lily Experiment

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Best of luck with your lily experiment. I think you went at it in a good fashion. Now you will know what colors to plant where. I can’t wait to see the end result too. Have a great weekend.

    Thanks Lisa. It seemed like a good plan at the time. Speaking of time, understanding when these lilies will bloom in the designated colors with their surroundings was sort of a guess. The results will be seen next May. You too, enjoy your weekend!

  2. Carol says:

    I was never a big fan of those LA lilies but seeing them in your garden makes me think that perhaps it was shortsighted of me not to plant just a few in my garden. Thanks for sharing your experiment with us!

    Thanks Carol, for reading along about this experiment. You do need some LA lilies, they are the easiest, earliest, fragrant, don’t need staking, beautiful colors, what more could a gardener ask for?

  3. It looks like your experiment worked. I was not so lucky with the lilies I ordered from Scheepers (same company as Van Engelen) the twenty-five did not bloom the first year. The second year they bloomed but some were eight feet tall in the raised bed along the south side, gorgeous but I couldn’t even keep them staked. So now they are waiting to be moved if I can find a place where they will not fall over. I do have photos but I wasn’t wise enough to tag them. I should have known that when they are Orienpets some can be quite tall.


    Thanks Eileen. Oh yes, the orienpets are quite tall and all need staking has been my experience. Once the flowering is finished, it is impossible to tell one from the other, too. Good luck with your move, but no matter where you plant them, they will need stakes.

  4. Layanee says:

    What, no lily leaf beetle there? You are lucky and organized. The lilies look quite nice as they are but I am sure your next combinations will shine even brighter.

    Thanks Layanee. If there is lily leaf beetle here, I have not noticed it, thank goodness. The blueberry box was never to be the permanent lily home, for many reasons. It was just an empty spot with nothing else planted in it then, something quite rare here!

  5. These LA hybrids sound like totally win-win candidates for the garden. I tend to steer away from Oriental lilies because of the height issues…I’m just not a conscientious staker. Your post has me itching to purchase some of this new (to me) variety. Thanks!

    That is why I chose them, Michaele. But I have come to adore the taller lilies that need staking too, like the Chinese trumpets which are so fragrant they snap one’s head to attention. Embrace the staking, but there are so many lilies from which to choose, why stop at just one type? HA

  6. gail says:

    It’s been a successful experiment Frances, the lilies are lovely. Next spring when they bloom in their new homes will be the icing on an already beautiful and delicious cake. I will watch for the sale this fall! A colorful mixture would be perfectly at home at C&L! xoxogail

    Thanks Gail. I too, will be looking forward to seeing the lilies in their chosen beds. You need some LA hybrids. Everyone does!

  7. Dee says:

    I love lilies of all kinds. Great experiment Frances.

    Thanks Dee. I love all the lilies, too. There can never be too many of them, and when good ones go on sale, will grab them up!

  8. Robin says:

    What a variety!

    Yes, a good variety of colors with this mixed bag, Robin. I don’t usually buy mixtures, but these were cheap and I knew the type to be exceptionally good.

  9. I love lilies, too. The smell is intoxicating and as I wander through my garden, they make me stop and literally smell the lilies!

    Thanks for joining in the conversation, Blonde Gardener. I love the scented lilies, but also have some Asiatics for the early bloom and colorful blooms. Those don’t need staking either.

  10. I did a similar experiment with a collection of named daylilies, planting them all together in a nursery bed so I could see their colors. I carefully removed the tags that would strangle them, wrote the name on a map of the bed. Then lost the map. Those daylilies have since been called 1A, 1B, etc to signify there original location on the map. I still have the name tags, but can only guess which name goes with which plant. For some, they were very distinctive and it was easy. For others, they will always be this or that.

    We are of the same mindset, Kathy. I did the same with the 25 daylily plants that my neighbor gave me. I did not lose the map, but the daylilies seem to have moved around the daylily hill all my themselves! Some disappeared, some had the wrong names to start with. It is a jumble now, and like you say, the distinctive ones are easy to identify, the oh so similar reds are just a guess. The lilies were much easier!

  11. Lovely experiment! I, too, took advantage of Van Engelen’s amazing end-of-season discounts…and then had to plant more than 700 tulips and 100 lilies! Although our gardens are very shady, I adore lilies and tuck them into any patch of sunlight I can find. I wish I had larger sunny areas so that our gardens would have a gorgeous lily display as your does!

    Thanks Julie. HA to your plant order to take advantage of that sale! It is hard not to add a *few* more bulbs when they are nearly giving them away. The lilies do best in full sun, but they will also bloom in part shade, thank goodness.

  12. Marcia says:

    I have made those impulse purchases, too. What gardener hasn’t? Mine last year was daffodils and then I had someone give me a lot of bulbs too. what a lot to plant. I love the one lily you labeled white/red. How distinctive that one is!

    Hi Marcia, so true about the impulse purchases, and I am impulsive by nature anyway. I am excited the see the lilies in their new homes, and see if the time of bloom varies, too.

  13. Phillip says:

    They are so beautiful. Mine did not do as well this year. Not sure why.

    Thanks Phillip. Some of the bulbs were affected by the extreme heat that we had in late spring. Most of my lilies in the experiment, the LA hybrids had already bloomed by then, thank goodness. Every year is different, I hope you have better luck next year.

  14. I am more like your offspring I suppose, I have purchased mixed bags and just plant and enjoy. I do like that Red/White one, very different!! I will be adding more this year, not sure what I will buy…..never know what bargains will present themselves.

    I like your attitude, Janet. Be ready for anything! Several of my garden beds are color themed, whether or not that makes them prettierm, who knows, but it helps me decide where to plant stuff!

  15. Beautiful already! And they will be even more stunning next year! Congratulations!

    Thanks so much. I am hoping for a grand show next year, planted each color group in one large hole, the better to see you, my dears.

  16. Cindy, MCOK says:

    It’s hard to imagine Fairegarden any lovelier than it was when isaw it in May. Perhaps I should visit when the lilies bloom next year for comparison’s sake.

    Hi Cindy, thanks. Come on over! You just missed the big lily blooming explosion by a week or so when you were here. You are welcome anytime!

  17. patientgardener says:

    I’m glad it isnt just me that makes notes and then cant find them. Your lilies are wonderful, such an elegant plant and it looks so decadent.

    Hi Helen, thanks for visiting. I make lots of notes to self, both physical and mental. Often, neither can be retrieved. The lilies are wonderful, I look forward to seeing them blooming in their new locations, color coded, next spring.

  18. Wow, some beautiful varieties. And the photos show them at their best! Sounds like you have a pretty good system for organizing them. Good luck!

    Thanks Plant Postings. I am pleased with the colors of the lily mixture, all different from what was already growing here.

  19. Pingback: Did You Ever Notice… | Fairegarden

Comments are closed.