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Lilies: Queens of the garden

05/14/04 12:00AM By Charlie Nardozzi
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(Host) Commentator Charlie Nardozzi is already anticipating the bloom of lilies in his garden.

(Nardozzi) Lilies are known as the queen of the garden for good reason. Their large, colorful, trumpet-shaped flowers herald the beginning of the summer garden season. Lily flower stalks range from a diminutive 2 feet tall to a towering 7 feet tall. Better yet, some of the lily species produce flowers so fragrant one stalk can perfume a whole room.

First, let's get the terminology straight. When I say lilies I'm not referring to the tiger or daylilies, in the Hemerocallis genus, that are
also blooming in mid summer. The lilies I love are in the Lilium genus. They produce flower stalks from bulbs planted in fall or spring. Probably the most familiar Lilium to novice gardeners is the Easter lily. Although this lily is marginally hardy in our neck of the woods, there are other lilies that are longer lasting in Vermont and produce bright and equally fragrant flowers. Here are three of my favorite types to try in your garden.

The lily season starts with the Asiatic lilies. Although generally not fragrant, varieties in this group bloom in early summer and grow 2 to 4 feet tall. A fine feature of Asiatic lilies is their trumpet-shaped flowers face upward allowing you to see the colors in all their glory. Some especially lovely varieties to try are the yellow colored 'Connecticut King' and crimson colored 'America'.

The trumpet, or Aurelian, lilies are the next to bloom. These plants grow up to 7 feet tall and produce fragrant flowers in bright colors ranging from yellow to deep purple. Some varieties to try include apricot 'African Queen' and yellow 'Golden Splendor'. Trumpet lilies naturalize so well, you'll need to pull seedlings out around the beds each spring. If left to grow they can become overcrowded and reduce flowering.

The climax of the lily show occurs with the Oriental lilies. These intensely fragrant flowers bloom from midsummer onward. Each 2- to 4-foot-tall plant produces 6 to 12 outward-facing flowers with curled petals. The colors range from white to red. The white 'Casa Blanca' and the pink and white 'Stargazer' are two common varieties.

A relatively new hybrid lily group is the Orienpet lilies a cross between the Oriental and trumpet lilies. They feature numerous fragrant, large, upward-facing flowers similar to Oriental lilies, but with the more intense flower colors and the naturalizing ability of trumpet lilies. 'Scheherazade' is a pink and purple flowered variety in this group.

To get your lilies off to a fast start, buy bulbs now. Dig holes 10 to 12 inches deep and amend the soil with compost. Plant the bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep and six inches apart. If rodents and chipmunks are active in your flower beds, consider adding a handful of crushed oyster shells to the planting hole to discourage them from eating the bulbs. Once the flower show is over, remove spent flowers, but leave the foliage and as much of the stem as possible to rejuvenate the bulb for next season.

This is Charlie Nardozzi in Shelburne.

Charlie Nardozzi is an all-around gardening expert with a special fondness for tomatoes and roses.
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