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Lilies in bloom

Now that it is officially summertime, I can begin to look forward to seeing all of the colorful combinations of lilies. From 12 inches tall to 7 feet tall, lilies know how to steal the show. More than 80 species provide a variety of colors, heights, and bloom times to choose from. Whether they bloom at the beginning of the summer to welcome you to warm weather, or late fall to say farewell until warm weather returns the next year. With so many different species and hybrids, the North American Lily Society has developed eight divisions to help classify them based on parentage, as well as the position and shape of the flower. The different divisions of hybrids are as follows: Asiatic, Martagon, Candidum, American, Longiflorum, Trumpet and Aurelian, Oriental, and Miscellaneous. I want to focus more on the Asiatic and Oriental lilies because they are the more popular hybrids.

Looking around the grounds at the IMA or anywhere else that you may be visiting, you will notice that the most commonly used lilies are Asiatic Hybrids and Oriental Hybrids. Asiatic lilies are one of the earliest to bloom as well as easy to grow. They can grow in almost any soil type just as long as there is no excess moisture that would cause the bulb to rot or acquire a disease. Orientals need a soil that is high in organic material as well as a low pH. Oriental lilies are easily distinguished from the Asiatic hybrids because they are taller, have larger flowers that are more fragrant as well as having wider leaves. Asiatics and Orientals are more popular because they are less susceptible to acquiring a number of troublesome diseases.

Since the beginning of their cultivation, lilies have acquired fungal diseases, basal rots and viruses that distort the plant. What I find interesting about the lilies is that, in medieval times, the bulbs were used for medicinal purposes. Lily bulbs were used to try to cure, or at least diminish the affects of ulcers, scurvy, dropsy and corns. Although using the bulbs for medicines sounds like a good idea, I would prefer to keep them in the ground so I can see and smell the lilies they produce.

When it comes time to choosing which type of lily to grow in your garden or to put in a centerpiece at a wedding, it is best to see and smell them in person before making a decision. Some lilies have a very strong scent, and some have no scent at all. When choosing for the garden, height and color have to be taken into account as well as scent. Though for some, scent may be an afterthought if their garden is already filled with plenty of sweet fragrances. Having lilies indoors is the tricky part for some. When hosting a wedding reception or any other gathering where lilies are in the centerpiece, it may be a wise decision to choose one with little to no scent. It all depends on personal preference. Some really like the fragrance lilies give off while others may despise it. Whatever your preference, it is always an enjoyable experience seeing these large and brightly colorful flowers throughout the gardens. To start off your garden tour at the IMA, stop in to the Garden for Everyone to see the tall yellow Orienpets (combination of the Oriental with the Trumpet and Aurelian hybrids), Lilium ‘Yelloween’, as well as the shorter Orienpets, Lilium ‘Algarve’. As you continue your tour it would be hard to miss any other outstanding lilies.

 

Astilbe: Brightening up the shade garden

Why is it that every time I think of shade gardens, the first plant that comes to my mind is a hosta? Could it be that everyone just really loves the large foliage, and the many different cultivars to choose from? I personally find it difficult to think of many plants that will add BRIGHT colors to the shade garden to liven the place up. Yes, the flowers of the hosta can be very beautiful, but I want something bigger and bolder. Looking around the gardens on a cloudy day, the astilbes are what really catch my attention in the shade gardens.

061314_astilbe_01Astilbe, also known as False Spirea, is a moisture loving shade plant. Astilbes prefer to have organic rich soils (as does everyone else) with plenty of shade. Having soils with higher clay content isn’t all bad since it can hold a little extra moisture for our astilbe friends. However, be sure to keep an eye out for those hot dry summer days. One of the most common issues with astilbes is dryness. I’m sure many noticed during the 2013 summer drought that the astilbes had brown margins on the leaves, or even whole leaves that withered up and died prematurely. Having an ample amount of moisture is essential to having healthy astilbes. Other than the inability to tolerate drought, there are few insects and diseases that really affect astilbes.

What makes the astilbe such a special plant to use in the shade garden? The large plume-like flowers are what really distinguish the astilbe from other shade plants. Long slender stems rise up from the mound of finely toothed leaves to show off large colorful flowers. With the many different cultivars you could have a simple white or cream colored flower to a brilliantly bright pink or red flower. Depending on the cultivar, there are astilbes that flower as early as late spring, and there are others that flower late summer.

061314_astilbe_02As summer progresses into fall, the flowers will start to fade. The dried up flower panicles give a little extra texture and interest to the garden. If keeping the flower panicles attached isn’t something you are particularly fond of, they can be cut off and the foliage of the astilbe will make a decent groundcover. Some cultivars may even have a reddish tint to the foliage so there is still a little extra color to be displayed. If you are like me and have difficulties keeping rabbits and deer from chewing your hostas down to nothing, the astilbe is a great addition to any shade garden.

Some great examples of beautiful astilbes can be found all over the IMA grounds. The border gardens have beautiful plantings of astilbe ‘Amethyst’ as well as A. x rosea ‘Peach Blossom’. The formal garden is home to a few A. x arensii ‘Erica’. There are also quite a few astilbes that are right next to the parking lot across from the Garden for Everyone. These are most certainly not the only astilbes that can be found on the grounds, so feel free to explore and find some more.

 

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