Perfection, that’s what we expect from our cut flowers. With lilies, you get that.
The Easter lily is well-known. But there are many wonderful kinds of lilies. In the garden, they bloom from May through September. They can bear either single or multiple buds.
Lilies are perfect as cut flowers. Most commercial cut lilies are either Asiatic hybrids, Oriental hybrids, or longiflorums.
So far as colors are concerned, you can take your pick. They’re available in white, pink, yellow, orange, and red.
Plant breeders have come up with many improved varieties of lilies. Now they are as easy to grow as any other garden plant. Most are hardy to zone 4. Lily bulbs aren’t hard to find. They’re often sold at local garden centers. One mail-order company, B & D Lilies (www.bdlilies.com) specializes in lilies.
Lily flowers can differ in shape and growth habit. Most commonly, they’re shaped like trumpets or cups, but others may resemble bells, stars, or bowls. Some will be erect, while others are horizontal or drooping.
Some are fragrant.
When choosing lily stems for cut flower arrangements, consider the size of the bloom. Some are only three inches wide, while others may be up to a foot across. The larger ones can be overwhelming if too many are used in an arrangement. So far as height is concerned, lilies can range from one to six feet.
The vase life of most lilies will be between 7-14 days. For the Asiatics, the vase life is determined by the life of the flower that opens first. Ideally, the other buds will open soon afterward. Commercial bulb growers sometimes soak the bulbs in a specific preservative before they are planted. This can prolong the vase life, but this isn’t practical for home gardeners.
From ancient Egypt to Greece, these much-beloved blooms have been enjoyed throughout history. They were depicted in art of the period. One of the frescoes at the palace of Knossos on Crete shows the Prince of Lilies. Lilies were used medicinally in medieval England. Kings of France were known as “Lords of the Silver Lilies.”
In the Victorian language of flowers, a pure white lily symbolizes innocence. According to Gretchen Scoble and Ann Field, authors of “The Meaning of Flowers-Myth, Language & Lore,” published by Chronicle Books, Romans believed that the flowers sprang from the breast milk of Juno, the Roman goddess of nature. Later, during the Christian era, the lily became associated with the Virgin Mary.
There’s a famous Renaissance painting of the Annunciation by Jacopo da Montagnana in which the archangel Gabriel has a Madonna lily stem in one hand.