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Lily Satisfaction

Anne Jaeger

Lily Satisfaction

Marilyn Monroe wanted desperately to be taken seriously as an actress.  It wasn’t enough that she was gorgeous and had a natural knack for comedic timing.

Some people are never satisfied with what they are.   I wonder if the same holds true for plants.  Do some plants dream of growing into something they aren’t?  If a duckling can dream of being a swan, can a lily strive to be a tree?  I ask this because my Casa Blanca lilies are far too tall. For the second year in a row they are unnaturally big.  And I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that I’m an Oregon State University Master Gardener either.  My Casa Blanca lilies are graduating into lofty “Ivory Towers” but they could care less about reading my badge or credentials! As an Oriental lily, Casa Blanca frequently grows four feet high when it blooms this time of year.  A dozen super white flowers circling the stem are absolutely enormous. The fragrance is so strong and sweet it draws you up off your feet like Yogi Bear wafting through the air toward the smell of a “pic-a-nic” basket.  I recently dreamed that the reason my Casa Blanca Lilies are more than seven feet tall is because they secretly want to be Douglas Fir trees.   Now, what is scary about this dream is that I woke up accepting it as reality.  Thinking to myself… “Ahhh yes, now THAT explains it!”. Of course, a case of plant envy.  The lilies want to be trees! I’ve been told that dreams often have a kernel of truth to them and after all,  my lilies are surrounded by Douglas Firs.  So maybe the lilies are just over achievers.  Local plant geneticist Judith Freeman of the Lily Garden tells me she’s never seen the Casa Blanca get quite this tall.  Although, Judith does have other hybrids growing so big and strong that birds are nesting in them in the field outside her office. Two of the best are “Silk Road” and “Scheherazade” (say:  Sha-hair-aw-zawd).  The flowers are so spectacular, both lilies keep winning the North American Lily Society popularity poll by gardeners who grow them.  No matter where you plant them in the Northwest, there are some universal truths about growing lilies.   First of all, they are easier to grow than all get out.    Pop the bulb in the ground in a sunny spot with well drained soil and voila!  The stems soar and the flowers burst like fireworks without any help from us.  One caveat here, the weight of the flowers can topple the plant.   They get so darn heavy you really do need to stake the stem… tie the stem to some kind of support.  Then, when the show is over, don’t cut the stem.  The leaves are the food factory for the bulb which stores energy for next years’ extravaganza.  If you’re having trouble picturing the grandeur of these hybrids, stop by the Classical Chinese Garden in Northwest Portland and see for yourself.  Rich Kibbons of the Pacific Northwest Lily Society is loaning three humungous Orientals to the garden.  You won’t be able to miss “Leslie Woodriff”.  One stem has 24 blooms and the other has 27.  The scent will knock you over.  You can’t help but salute the loaner lilies as you stroll through the formal entry on Northwest Everett and Third.  I never dreamed they’d prove to be such winners in my garden as well.   This year, lilies are the stuff summer dreams are made of.