Western lilies (was Lilium candidum)

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Mon, 14 Jun 2004 18:13:28 PDT
Jim asked,

>I have been hoping you or some
>other west coast grower would have something to say about the so-called
>dry-land western lilies such as Lilium kelloggii, L. bolanderi, L.
>rubescens and L. washingtonianum.
>In my experience, none of the west coast lilies is easy here. Even L.
>pardalinum and its various hybrids/forms seem challenged by what my garden
>has to offer.

L. pardalinum enjoys moisture year round in my garden. In the mountains one 
sometimes sees it growing right in the spray of mountain streams. Perhaps 
the hot, humid east coast weather makes it susceptible to disease, although 
I've never seen Botrytis on it here.

 >Years ago a friend gave me some freshly collected seed of Lilium
>washingtonianum. I eventually had several hundred seedlings in a coldframe.
>Having read that this species grows in forests, I had started them in a
>shaded coldframe. The frame was left open during our wet, humid summer.
>That was the last I ever saw of them - not one survived the summer.

OK, they grow in forests, but not what an East Coast person would think of 
on hearing the word "forest." They grow typically on very steep slopes in 
pine and fir forests, above the normal winter snow elevation, and they are 
very dry in summer owing to the steep, rocky sites and competition from the 
trees. This very beautiful large and fragrant lily is regarded as a great 
challenge even in my neighborhood, only a half hour's drive from some of 
its wild sites but much lower in elevation. However, the similar though 
smaller L. rubescens, from northern California, is more amenable to garden 
culture, if you can keep the foul rabbits from eating it (mine are in 
little wire cages).

>For those of us here in the east, it's very difficult to understand how the
>requirements of Lilium washingtonianum differ from, for instance, those of
>the so-called wet land lilies such as L. maritimum, L parvum and so on.

The only "bog" lily I know of on the west coast is L. occidentale. I think 
the very rare L. pitkinense is also a bog species, perhaps Mary Sue can 
confirm? Even L. occidentale (which is on the endangered list) doesn't grow 
in stagnant water, but in clear, slowly moving fresh water, often with 
Darlingtonia, the West Coast analog of the eastern Sarracenias.

L. parvum is regarded as an easy garden plant in most parts of the country 
and has been used a lot in breeding hybrids. I grow L. kelloggii and L. 
bolanderi in the bulb frame to keep them from getting too much water in 
late spring (we just had two solid weeks of rain). However, they don't want 
to be parched in summer, just not too moist.

For complete information on growing species lilies, see Edward McRae's book 
"Lilies" (Timber Press, 1998).

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon

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