July 17, 2009

Lily Show Review

Joe examines the entries at the 150th Lily Show of the New England Lily Society. Lily Shows are one of the best places to find varieties that are rarely seen at garden centers.

Lilium 'Katinka', a down-facing pendant Asiatic

A new Trumpet Lily

Last weekend we attended the New England Lily Society Show at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden. I remember both visiting and exhibiting in this Lily show when I was a kid, when the group was called the New England Regional Lily Group, and their shows would be held at the Worcester County Horticultural Society's Horticultural Hall, a massive space designed in the 19th C. as an exhibition hall for plant enthusiasts. In the 1960's and 1970's, the hall would be filled with towering stems of fragrant lilies that exhibitors would groom and enter from all over New England. From early in the morning, exhibitors would start arriving, or even the night before, so that they would have time emptying out their vans and station wagons where the tall stems would be transported so carefully with cotton between their buds, or newspaper taped around their stems.

Carefully sorted and then placed in each Class, the lilies would be judged for perfection. I'm not sure if this is one of those things that one romances about from the perspective of the present, and remembers a grander and larger exhibit, but I think I am pretty certain that this current show included many fewer entries and stems of lilies. The reasons are many, first, all plant societies are losing memberships for many reasons, and second, the lily beetle, which is should be another post in itself, for this lady bug look-alike is an invasive species that is destroying many if not most of our lilies, native and hybrid and is the only insect I use insecticide on, and third, lilies are rarely grown since most people buy their plants in the spring, and fall, and usually in-bloom, so they rarely buy summer blooming bulbs like lilies.

Do try true lilies, at one of the Lily mail order nurseries, or visit your local nursery since many now have potted lilies for sale, that are in-bud, and are not much more than actual hybrid bulbs planted in the autumn. If you choose to order bulbs, order them now, and then when they are shipped in October when dormant, they can be placed in the garden for color next summer. Lilies get better with each year, as the bulbs become larger, which is a fun phenomenon to watch. My favorite are down-facing Asiatics, the turks cap types which are hard to find, except at lily nurseries, and the trumpets, which have an incredible fragrance akin to menthol, jasmine and banana all mixed up, summer for my nose!


  1. Matt, which lily "one" best of show? lol, sorry, I couldn't help it!You do have typos once and awhile,as do I...but I'm so impressed that you do get so much done in your garden and life,and I only wish more people took the time to share such amazing stories and thoughts with others,(if they have them)... and keep your life going!Please keep posting,regardless of the typos-this isn't life or death,but it is inspiring. B (any typos??)

  2. If you like the lily show, you may also like the Daylily show this weekend. From our flyer:


    Tower Hill Botanic Garden
    Boylston, MA
    Sunday, July 26, 11am – 5pm

    Sponsored by
    New England Daylily Society
    Accredited by
    American Hemerocallis Society

    Gardeners of New England show their best grown, best groomed daylily flowers. Come
    see the unbelievably gorgeous colors and patterns, attend the educational presentations and discover why this perennial is a favorite with gardeners everywhere. Visitors who join the daylily society on this day receive a daylily plant plus discounts toward the purchase of plants at various gardens. Free with admission to Tower Hill.

    Schedule of Events

    11:00 – 2:00 Plant Sale
    11:00 – 11:40 “Got Sun? Go Daylilies!” presented by Sandra Schaider
    See their beauty and endless variety, learn about their easy care and
    propagation, the fun of cross pollinating and growing from seed… all in
    a series of extraordinary photographs.
    11:45 – 12:20 “Local Treasures” presented by Mike Huben, hybridizer. See the
    wonderful work being done by New England hybridizers and learn
    about the gardens that sell these outstanding plants.
    12:25 – 12:50 “Propagation by Division” shown by Denise Pavlovich
    12:55 Raffle drawing for free plants and membership to the daylily society
    1:00 – 5:00 "Judged Exhibition" features New England's prize daylilies. The
    exhibition showcases over 300 cultivars from miniature to extra large
    and includes doubles, spiders, and unusual form daylilies.

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