July 21, 2014


They are the gamechangers of the lily world - new interspecific hybrids are changing how we all think about lilies.
So get this.  This a busy week for me. I am putting the final touches on my presentation at next Saturday's Sakonett Symposium in Little Compton, Rhode Island, (come, if you can!), but first I am off to Comicon in San Diego (for my day job, a bit of research and mingling with the Bronies, a corporate website launch, and some worky stuff, and then back just in time to the East Coast late Friday night to speak at the Sakonnet Garden Symposium on Saturday morning, along with Margaret Roach and Aaron Bertlesen, the head gardener for the veg garden at Great Dixter (what company, right?). I'm kind-of freaked out, but all things considered, it should be great. 

Orientpet lilies are definitely changing the lily game - even this older cross in our gold and blue garden, the variety 'Conca d' Or', which just gets bigger and bigger each year, with more buds. This year, one of them has 25 buds.

But this weekend's lily show? I HAVE to share the photos with you! Spectacular. That's all I can say about this show, held at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA and sponsored by the New England Lily Society. At first, I was more interested in finishing my presentation than journeying over to the botanic garden on Saturday, but Joe dragged me out for a few hours, and I was so happy that he did - the show was so much better than shows in the past few years, and at first, I wondered why. Were the lilies just all later this year? Did the lily beetle suddenly disappear? I think I know the answer ( please correct me if someone out there knows why!), but I think that it's because of the new Orienpets.

read on for more:

The variety 'President', was one that made my list for next year.

Orienpets are recently introduced ( bred mostly in the late 20th century and introduced in numbers during the past decade a breeders learned to manage chromosome counts and experimented with newer crosses - clearly, much progress has occurred). Orinpets  simply a cross ( not-so-simply, they are known as an interspecific cross - that, between two distinct species of lilium), but to use, they are just a mix between between the Oriental lily and the Trumpet lily.  Marketed under the unfortunate name of 'Orienpet' (sometimes just 'OT' lilies), they offer gardeners a stronger, more robust lily with all of the fabulous characteristics needed for a superb garden plant. Strength, vigor and yes - scent. They are such strong growers with super-thick stems and tall, candelabras of flowers, that I have seen them marketed as 'Tree Lilies', which is a little misleading, but whatever - if it works, go for it. I am convinced that I need to get more for my garden.

In my garden, the mid-season lilies are in peak bloom. I wanted to share these pink hybrid forms of the Easter Lily, that were sent to my when I ordered some bulbs from a lily nursery, but they were out of the variety that I wanted, so they sent me 6 of these. I was not happy, as I asked for replacement bulbs in any color other than pink - still, after 3 years now, they are 6 and and half feet tall, and pretty awesome.

I love tall, fragrant lilies, and these new hybrids seem to have it all. These are hybrids of Lilium longiflorum and not Orienpets. They are hybrids closer to the common Easter Lily.

Joe checks his favorite varieties, leaving with a long list, at the N.E. Lily Society annual lily show.

 Love these Orientpets? Then check out the varieties available here at B&D lilies - just in time to order for your fall garden. They seem to be a bit more resistant to the red lily beetle, but they will still need daily monitoring with your fingers and a jar of soapy water in which to squish the scarlet bugs, but I say - just plant a few Martagon lilies or old-fashioned Asiatic lilies to act as bait, to lure the bugs away from the far nicer Orienpets (only kidding - but they do like those lilies much better!). If you live in the West, and still don't have to deal with the Red Lily Beetle, then go for all you can afford. 

Gorgeous salmon and coral toned Orienpet Lilies, beautifully displayed by color. I've never seen this method of displaying lilies before, I am guessing that because of the number of Orienpets, it was easier to display them by color because they were all entered in the same class.

Maybe it's because I am in Comicon mode, but I like to think of the Orienpets at being a Superhero - saving the lily society from a certain demise. Just a few years ago, the sand of the lily society seemed unavoidable, but not for the same reasons why many plant societies are failing - it's end seemed likely due to the infestation of the Red Lily Beetle (Lilioceris lilii), which appeared in the eastern US, and has quickly made raising most lilies challenging for anyone east of the Rockies. This invasive pest which looks very much like a lady bug, has been devastating to the lily world ( and it attacks other bulbous plants like the Frittilaria species with gusto). Any efforts to control the bug aside from the messy and gross task of hand picking and squishing them, does little for the population, leaving the most effect treatment of brutal systemic insecticide the only choice.

A rainbow of Orienpet lilies at the New England Lily Society lily show. Yummy colors, indeed.
There is some hope - especially with these new tetraploid ( double the chromosomes is better!) lilies Orienpets could possible be a bit more resistant to the beetle, as they genetically carry a tiny bit of an older variety called 'Black Beauty' , which in some studies has shown to be less appealing tot he beetle. This is only my kitchen research, but I have found that my Orienpets need only a drop of insecticide in the spring, whereas any Asiatic variety will still get defoliated and serious bud damage in just a single night of Lily Beetle frenzy.  

As for the lily beetle, there are studies happening here in the East at the University of Connecticut, with some research showing that an introduced wasp species feeds on the larvae, and the early results seem promising. In my garden, it's the precious Martagon lilies that get the worst of the lily beetle, and it's the only plant in the garden where I use a bit of insecticide ( just a few drops near the bulb will do). I hate doing it, but I want to protect these and out native lilies the Lilium canadensis and Lilium superbum colonies which would be eliminated near our woods in just a night or two by lily beetles. They are not visited by honey bees, but I still treat oh so carefully.

Very few species lilies were exhibited this year, but this Lilum leichtinii from Japan caught my eye. Not unlike a yellow tiger lily, I liked how it was displayed in front of this old painting of one of the old Worcester Horticultural Society officers, My Photos are pretty poor due to the overcast day, and because I was using my iPad.

Most of the varieties that we saw at this show, made our wish list, and as we usually do after a flower show sponsored by a plant society, we went home and looked at our photos, especially those of the entry tags, so that we could look on-line for sources. There are only a few lily nurseries in the US ( mostly in Washington state, and a few in Canada, but I was surprised to find one in the UK that seemed to be the only one that carried the winning Orienpets that we saw today - and I was shocked to see that they sell to the US. I know where I will be sending an order next winter (as this nursery only ships in the spring). Here is their site: H.W. Hyde & Sons. I highly reccomend all of the North American specialty nurseries however, I regularly order from B&D lilies, and the Lily Nook

Lilium leichtlnii

A few Asiatic lilies were entered, but really, just a few. These were a favorite - a triple stem entry of  'Chocolate Canary'.

Not really favorite of mine ( can too pretty be a reason?), but I would imagine that this was clearly the audience favorite, because everyone I talked to seemed to mention this giant pink lily, from kids to adults. It's called 'Tabledance'.

'The Edge' An oriental lily, not an Orinpet, nor an Asiatic for that matter.

After the show, Joe and I walked around the gardens at Tower Hill. They looked so nice this summer, with interesting plantings, and many new plants. I liked this water feature with canna.

This planting makes me want to grow Galtonia candicans again. I had mine planted in the perennial border, but as an underplanting. I think it may like it better when planted in the open, as seen here.

This fountain surrounded by various succulents including sedum in bright colors, has nice border of dwarf Holly ( Ilex crenata 'Pagoda', which looks similar to a dwarf boxwood, but surely is more resistant to virus and hardy.
Lastly, this insane lily which I think is a deformed bloom of 'Mystic Dream', which typically is all green. Don't even get me started with those new double lilies!


  1. Matt, I just "discovered" these lilies. About 3-4 years ago and can't get enough of them. Now, I am in search of the President. Thanks.

  2. We are seeing far fewer lily beetles here in Vermont this year...even on the Martagons! I had pulled up all of the lilies planted in my gardens when I moved in here because of the beetles, but with the lower numbers of them I put in a few L. candense seedlings and some Frits. I'm keeping my fingers crossed the beetles won't be such a problem in future!
    I can just imagine what the fragrance must have been like when entering the show room at THG!!

  3. john in Cranston12:19 PM

    Wow, good links, seems like I will be making fall order for some orienpets..
    Sorry that I can't make Saturday (work + dollars, ugh), I could use some educating in the vegetable garden, for sure.
    Catch up at another time...

  4. Anonymous10:09 PM

    Hi Matt. I live In Seattle. I have ordered from all the Washington State based lily nurseries. You need to check out The Lily Garden. They are based out of SW Washington (really close to Portland). Great quality and selections that I believe are unavailable anywhere else. Top notch nursery. The owner has been in the industry for a long period of time and is sharp. My best lilies have been from this nursery. They have a website. Please check them out. Mark.

  5. I love lilies, but I've had a hard time keeping them going in my garden. L. regale has hung in there but everything else seems to peter out. I water erratically and my garden can get quite dry in the summer, so maybe that's a hint at the problem...

  6. Anonymous4:02 PM

    Which LiLy has the biggest flowers? tbuell@calstrs.com


Oh yes, do leave me a comment!