Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gilding the Lily

or A Sporting Chance

Naivety is such an endearing trait in other people and so exasperating in yourself.  That is, it's fine to begin with, before you realize that you're being naive, but afterward, when you're reaping the fruits of your ignorance, then it's exasperating.  Take Easter lilies, for example.  Last year I somehow ended up with three of them, and thought with pleasure that they would be just the things to fill a hole between the two youngest sand cherry bushes until they've grown in.

Unfortunately, I was naive in the ways of Easter lilies and didn't know that their fragrance—so enjoyable when the buds were just peeping open—would be overpowering once they opened all the way.  (I sure know it now.)  Nor was I aware that removing the anthers would tone down the scent.  Easter of 2010 was two weeks before our last frost date, and I sat with those lilies in my modest-sized townhome for fourteen long days as the blasted flowers got more and more and more odoriferous.  (Just to be clear, it's not the fragrance itself that I object to but the inescapably massive, overwhelming, larger-than-life, sledge-hammer brute force of it.  The fragrance itself is fine.)

Eventually I got grumpy and locked them in the guest bathroom until it was safe to plant them outside.  I was tempted to chuck them out altogether.  But when you open the door on them after they've been shut away in the dark for days with no care and they're still joyfully radiating "Ta da!", chucking them doesn't seem quite right.  (After all, once I had scrubbed down the walls with undiluted vinegar, washed the towels and hung them in direct sun for several days running, and replaced the old toilet paper roll with a new one fresh from the package, the bathroom was more or less bearable again.  Faintly exotic, but bearable.)

I decided to give them a sporting chance, if you can call sticking them in bad dirt against a heat-radiating wall without hardening them off or giving them any particular nurture, growling at them all the while, a sporting chance.  They did OK, but I was happy—yes, happy—to see them wither away in July.

But of course, in the way of bulbs, they came back again in the spring.  I was a little harrumph-y about that, too—if I had known lilies would do so well here, I would have planted some gorgeous Asiatics, with deep, velvety colors, and not white, smelly Easter lilies.

Now that they're blooming, though, I'm not harrumphing.  I'm not quite ready to celebrate them wholeheartedly, as Ginny at Ginny's Garden does so beautifully, but I'm not still cross.   Not really.

No, not really cross at all.  I rather like them with the yarrow and daisies, even though yarrow seems a little too rough-and-tumble to associate with lilies.  The gold and white enhance each other; together they speak of joy and sunlight and fresh, dewy mornings.  Since we seldom have dewy mornings here, it's extra-nice to be able to evoke them.

Even the fragrance is barely noticeable, unless you're up close taking macro shots, and eventually I ought to be able to avoid that.  From the scattering of pollen on the trumpets, the pollinators have been enjoying themselves, and that is always a good thing.  (The flowers also have a light coat of ash from the Wallow Fire, but if it wasn't ash, it would be dust, trust me.)  I may even give them a little extra water and some fertilizer this year.

They might as well have a sporting chance.


  1. Oh I adore these lilies, but and would happily have my house filled with them...Alas, I now have cats, and as they are very poisonous to cats I can't have them anymore. A lot of people have commented to me that they hate the smell of lilies as they associate them with funerals....


  2. They are gorgeous! I love them with the yarrow, though I'm not sure everyone would. Perhaps it's the white daisy with the yellow centers that tie them together so well. Hmmm.... I'm going to have to plant some of these!

  3. Mand, you are noble indeed to make such a sacrifice for your cats. I'm not generally a cat lover but would actually prefer the cats to a houseful of lilies. Thanks for visiting and for the comment!

    Holley, thank you--it's good to get some outside feedback on the combination. I think you're right that the daisies are the key.

    btw, is Blogger doing odd things to you these days?

  4. Love lilies. When they cross Easter lilies with Asiatics to make LA lilies, some of the strong Noxema smell goes away. Wait. It's trumpet lilies that smell like Noxema. I just walk on the opposite side of the lawn from them.

  5. I love the scent of lilies wafting on a breeze, but I agree that they can be a bit overwhelming up close and personal. I took out all my lilies when they got infested by the red lily beetle -- or at least I thought I did; I have at least three growing and about to bloom. Happily, I have not seen any sign of the red lily beetles on them. -Jean

  6. odd things? What?

    Our March lilies smell fierce in your face, but wafting on the breeze in the garden, is good.

  7. You've got to like flowers that can be locked in a dark bathroom, planted in bad soil with no care, and still survive -and bloom! I agree with you though, about the scent ...

  8. I love them with the yarrow and daisies - I may just have to plant yarrow and daisies around mine. Though I've never had much success with daisies, I'd be willing to try again. I agree that the scent is too much for close quarters but very nice in the garden.

  9. I agree with you. I love the Easter Lillies, but too much of a good thing is well, too much!

    I so appreciate your pix and your words. I love reading your posts!


  10. Nell Jean, walking on the opposite side of the garden is a brilliant plan. (In my case, that means about 7 feet farther away.) :)

    Jean, what a lovely surprise, to have some return like that. Best wishes in keeping the beetles at bay!

    Diana, context does make a huge difference. I am thinking of the lilies like bagpipes--perfect in a wide open space, but not really ideal indoors.

  11. Sheila, I'm really astonished at what good sports they were about utter neglect!

    Ginny, I've been growing Anthemis tinctoria rather than regular Shasta daisies--they seem to do better out here. And yes, I'm enjoying the scent much more in the garden...

    Elaine, I wish they had the equivalent of a volume knob, so we could just turn the strength down a bit!

  12. Stacy, I love the way you describe the lilies going "Ta da!" when you finally released them from their bathroom quarantine. It captures their impossibly optimistic, bright nature so perfectly!

  13. Jill, thank you--they really are amazingly joyful flowers!