Alert the media - my lilies are in bloom! Close to ten years ago, when my family and I first relocated to Philadelphia, I was beyond excited to live within driving distance to the world-famous Longwood Gardens. While attending a flower show, I was drawn in by a spectacular grouping of Asiatic lilies with blooms the size of salad plates. To my delight, the bulbs, direct from Holland, were for sale. I have mail ordered bulbs many times from all over, and in my experience, it has been with varying degrees of quality. The ones I selected that day were huge, individually wrapped in tissue, and packaged in a protected container much like eggs in a carton. And they were expensive! Almost ten times the price of other lily bulbs I’d encountered. I went all in and bought thirty of them.
As with all plants, it is important to choose and prepare the area for planting. At home, I scouted a location in my new backyard that received at least six hours of sun a day. Lilies are notorious for preferring well-drained soil, so I made sure to work some organic material several inches deep into the bed to ensure good drainage. I also included peat moss in the mix as lilies perform best in in slightly acidic soil.
A few weeks before the freezing temperatures in the fall, I returned to the prepared bed and dug holes three times the height of the bulbs and set them inside, pointy side up. I felt like I was digging to China. But I didn’t skimp on depth because the development of a strong root system produces the best blooms.
Following these steps simple steps helped get the bulbs off to a great start. And it has had a tremendous pay off. My beautiful Asiatics have proliferated and bloomed their heads off for almost a decade now and remain the unchallenged showpiece of my garden. Some are over five feet tall!
In order to maintain this terrific show, I feed them with fish emulsion in early spring, and give a light dressing with bone meal in early June. Caution is the rule here as too much fertilizer creates lush foliage and limit blooms.
The Asiatic lily bulbs I purchased so long ago might be considered by some opulent. We were, after all, in our new home and had plenty of other things to worry about. But I am the ultimate witness that in the gardening world you often get what you pay for. They continue to delight us every summer with their classic lily faces – open and glorious, as they practically glow in shades from cream to bright yellow to the loveliest pink. And best of all, they have given me far more than I expected for my investment.
Maureen Joyce Connolly is an avid gardener. Her debut novel, LITTLE LOVELY THINGS, was released in April 2019 and is available wherever books are sold. Maureen’s website is https://maureenjconnolly.com