A neat lily for this time of year

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@jimmckenney.com
Thu, 27 Jul 2006 09:50:49 PDT
There is a lily blooming in the garden now which, although it's nothing new,
deserves a brief moment in the spotlight. 

Most of you who grow lilies have probably grown Lilium henryi at some time.
In recent years there has been some buzz about the rediscovered Lilium
rosthornii - this one has flowers essentially identical to those of Lilium
henryi,  but the rest of the plant is distinct.  

Lilium henryi is one of the most important lilies in the history of the
development of modern garden cultivars. It was the amazing hybridization of
Lilium speciosum and Lilium henryi nearly a half-century ago by Lesile
Woodriff (the resulting hybrid came to be known as 'Black Beauty') which
formed the basis for the developments which made possible the modern super
lilies which are blooming now here in Maryland.

I don't see Lilium henryi in gardens often. It has one fault for which most
gardens will not forgive it: it leans. In fact, long ago E.A. Bowles
accurately compared its habit of growth to that of a Polygonatum. 

I've never seen them, but rigidly upright forms are mentioned in the older
literature. These I would like to have. 

But it was not Lilium henryi itself which prompted this post. The lilies I
want to call attention to are the yellow-flowered forms of Lilium henryi.
These yellow-flowered forms are lumped under the nonsense name Lilium henryi
var citrinum. I call this a nonsense name because a) there is no wild
population anywhere in the world which corresponds to these yellow-flowered
plants b) they are of independent origin, i.e. they are not a clone c) they
are not all alike, a circumstance which corroborates the assumption that
they have independent origins. 

Unfortunately, most lily growers and sellers have never distinguished among
them. On the rare occasions when they are offered, it's pot luck. I think at
least three clones were known by the second half of the last century. And
there is no reason why there may not be many more clones: if the
yellow-flowered forms are crossed with the orange-flowered forms, and the
progeny of that cross are crossed among themselves, you should get at least
some new yellow-flowered forms. 

This lily has very attractive flowers of a good yellow - really the color of
lemon rind. There is no trace of orange in the form I grow. Try to imagine
it growing with blue mophead hydrangeas, or beside a blue bench. It seems to
be no more difficult to grow than typical Lilium henryi, although the form I
grow has so-far never attained the really prodigious dimensions sometimes
attained by Lilium henryi.

Does anyone else grow this plant?

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where one of the lilies now
in bloom, Leslie Woodriff's 'Black Beauty', is the daughter of Lilium henryi
which is the ancestor of some of the great modern super-lilies. 

More information about the pbs mailing list