Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The winner in the weather

These leopard lilies (lilium pardilinium) seem to revel in the cool, damp weather we have been getting this summer.

They have completely taken over one half of a long border - rising up through everything else with their glossy whorls of leaves topped by these recurving spotted flowers - like elaborate turbans.

Lilies are an interesting flower from a commercial point of view. They are the most expensive bulbs I buy and as you can't cut them the first year that adds to the cost both in money and space. They are, however, essential at this time of year - taking over from the alliums and filling in the "big bloom" gap until the dahlias, sunflowers and gladioli come on stream.

Lilies are also a standard florist (and supermarket) flower. Amy Stewart's book Flower Confidential documents the development of the Stargazer lily and how it was its upright facing buds and increased "packability" that led to its cornering the market. Certainly you would not want to try and pack these into florists boxes - the buds all hang down and the flowers are short and wide - they also go from bud to bloom in a few hours, though the blooms than have a good vase life.

My customers - and I am aware that they are a self selecting group - are also not that keen on lilies - particularly scented lilies and "no scented lilies" is the most common note on my subscription database. I, however, love these - they are elegant, rich and at the moment taking over the garden.

By the way - ages ago I paid a fortune for some "Bellingham hybrid" leopard lilies as recommended by Christopher Lloyd - these grow in my garden alongside the species variety and I can see no difference at all in looks of vigour (though there is a 4 fold difference in price).


PG said...

Oh I love the smell of lilies, although it is so heavy I can see why other people would find it a bit sickly. Lilies have it all, don't they, looks and smell!

Ashleigh said...

I despair at customers in the shop sometimes. They won't buy lilies if even one on a stem is open. They won't buy roses that are open, they must be tightly shut. They want chrysanths! Strangely enough the auction floors told my boss today that the sweet pea season is over, but my garden sweet peas have just begun blooming! Good thing too as each sweet pea stem costs 65 eurocents if I were to buy them in the shop.

Jane said...

PG - I love scented lilies in the garden but not in the house - somehow they remind me of funerals (and this seems to be a common connection).

Ashlieigh - We must remember though that customers have been carefully educated by the cut flower association over the years to look for specific things in flowers - shut lilies and roses being one. That these traits have nothing to do with vase life and everything to do with making it easier to pack and transport the stems is ignored.

You are much better getting lilies with a flower open - it proves that they will. Closed lilies have often been picked too soon and just stay there in the vase neither blooming nor dying.

There is a lot of educating to do if the small local unusual florist is to compete with the 12 months a year chrysanths florists.

Our sweetpeas are slow this year - they don't like the cold nights & hail - but that means that I expect the season to continue right through August. I wonder what has gone wrong - but come to think of it I have had a few florist orders for sweet peas this week - I charge 20-30p a stem too - it is the labour involved unfortunately, even at that price it is touch and go whether it is a viable crop - but then I couldn't not grow sweet peas could I? Here in Sainsburys they are 49p a stem and in chi-chi florists about £1-1.20 - so, as ever, Holland is much much more reasonable.


carolyn said...

I love scented lilies we used to have one in the front garden that was only frangrant at night and it was heavenly, wish I knew what variety it was, it was kinda crazy as the stems were taller than me.
I suppose I can understand people not wanting them in their floral arrangements though as the scent can be a bit headache inducing in confined places, the pollen stains something wicked and they are poisonous to cats (I think I'm right there anyway they are definetly poison to some kind of domestic animal).

Raindrops said...

eiI love lilies but I find if they don't all open up. As for sweet peas I love them. But mine have not done so well. Think all the rain has killed them off. I've said it once and will say it again. I hope you are going to do mail order one day on your flowers.

alice c said...

I adore lilies - white, pink, yellow, orange, large, small. I cannot imagine my house without them. I realise that this confession is not good for my image so I am going to go off and cultivate a love for nettles.

Jane said...

Alice - now you may laugh but in Shane Connolly's book on the language on flowers there is a bouquet with nettles in it.
I can't see it catching on in Stirlingshire though.
I certainly prefer lilies to all the terribly tasteful self effacing flowers favoured by the "terribly refined"!
I would love to have a sloping meadow full of Regale Lilies and one day may just splurge out and give it a go - image walking up through all those wonderful blooms. At the moment though the ideal space is full of pigs . . .