Orange Insanity

Jim McKenney
Fri, 23 Jan 2004 07:20:41 PST
Ken, when you ask " So,
>why is the color I dislike in asiatic lilies, likeable in a different
>type of Lily?
the answer, as you yourself have indicated, is that they are different

I grow lilies too, and I have some experience with their peculiar color
range. Part of the "trouble" with lilies such as Enchantment is that we no
longer see them in context. What I mean is that Enchantment is a very old
lily for a hybrid lily - as you no doubt know, it dates from the years just
before the Second World War. (Anyone still around who was there at its
christening must be an old guy by now  : ), right, Mr Bryan?)  Back in
those days, although there were Asiatic hybrid lilies, they apparently had
"bad" colors: either dull or strident. Whites, good pinks and pastels
didn't exist among Asiatic hybrids. When Enchantment was introduced, its
comparatively clear, sparkling color must have seemed wonderful for a
garden lily. 

As you noted, the orange in trumpets is a different orange. Apparently the
orange color in hybrid trumpets comes from Lilium henryi. The white colors
and orange colors are from different pigment groups; when they are combined
they produce a soft, sometimes muddled, effect. It's a soft, orange
sherbert sort of color in trumpets, and a very nice color it is. But it
never has the glossy, sparkling quality which some orange Asiatic hybrid
lilies have. 

But here I think is the real reason, and it's been mentioned in these
threads recently: Hemerocallis fulva. Its ubiquity has made it a force to
be considered. It has strong ties to "white trash gardening". Use it well
and it's glorious; place it carelessly and it spoils a wide range of
colors. If you want to see it in glorious mode, place it near a bright blue
bench. If you want to see it spoiling everything around it, simply look in
most gardens. 

Summers here are miserable: the heat, humidity and air pollution make
summer my least favorite season. And the one color I don't want to see
during the summer is a murky, cloudy orange. The color of Hemerocallis
fulva is to me the embodiment of all that is worst about our local climate:
wonderful potential (there's nothing wrong with orange) spoiled by heat,
humidity and polluton (the  grayed color effect). Clear bright oranges in
the summer are another matter entirely!

Colors are tricky. I thought I didn't like the color of Hemerocallis fulva.
One year it was blooming with Lilium tsingtauense. I was enthusiastic about
the color of Lilium tsingtauense, and thought of it in the most laudatory
terms. Then I placed a bloom of Hemerocallis fulva next to one of Lilium
tsingtauense. The color is almost exactly the same! The lily flower has a
glossy surface and the daylily has a matte surface, and that certainly
influenced my perception of them. But they are essentially the same color. 

A friend in the nursery business once explained that business in a
nutshell: people buy color. Color in the garden is a bit like sound: and I
think most people are listening to Rap rather than Mozart. Most people seem
to want noise and excitement at the beginning of their gardening
experience. As sophistication (or whatever it is) grows, they eschew
orange. I say don't avoid it, learn to use it. I have no intention of
growing old surrounded by mauve and lilac harmonies. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, zone 7, where if you look carefully you can
see a speck of welcome orange on the witch hazels

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