Tuesday, June 8, 2010

the tiger lily: a welcome volunteer

Now the tiger lilies (Lilium) are blooming! A native of Asia, this plant has naturalized ditches and hillsides all over North America. I am happy to welcome it in my garden, though I keep it restricted to the very back of my west side border. It also is sprinkled all over the bank at the rear property line, where it receives no maintenance from me.

The beautifully detailed orange bloom stands tall, at about 3 ½ feet. The foliage is a medium green and looks similar to that of the Daylily. It is a nice transition between the spring and summer blooming flowers and the color complements most any other flower in the garden. These volunteers can be aggressive, and seem to spread by underground rhizomes.

Because of the foliage, and the name ‘Lily’, I had assumed that this plant was a cousin to the Daylily (Hemerocallis). After my experiment, however, I’m thinking that’s about all they have in common. Daylilies make a poor choice for the cut flower garden, with blooms lasting only a day (hence the name). I wondered how the tiger lily would do as a cut flower…

I was already cutting back some of my Baptisia to make more room for the veggies when I realized how nicely the Baptisia foliage complimented the Tiger Lily bloom. So I grabbed a vase and cut off a stem of Tiger Lily flowers and buds and added the Baptisia fronds. Instantly, I liked the combination, but knew it probably wouldn’t last.

To my surprise, the Baptisia leaves still look great, nearly a week later. The Tiger Lily flowers and buds continued to bloom for days (the blooms close up at night). It ended up being a great, long-lived cut flower combination!

[The photo on the pavement was the initial arrangement, and the photo on the deck was taken after several days.]

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