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  • Writer's pictureLaura

Lilies in a box

Updated: Dec 14, 2023

The way that we grow flowers to be used as cut flowers is often quite different from the way a gardener grows the same flower in their garden. Lilies are a good example of this. They can be grown in crates which allows them to be grown at any time of year. We did an experiment, along with our farmer friend Yeon Kim of Whispering Flower Farm, and planned to have lilies for Easter, Mother's Day and for sale in June. It kind of makes me laugh thinking of it, because it really didn't work out as planned, but even though we didn't get the timing just right, the flowers were gorgeous.

Our June "Easter" lily

Lilies have a requirement for a certain amount of time to develop roots, form flower buds and then to grow, but they can do this at basically any time of the year in a greenhouse. In February we planted the first six crates with 25 lilies each and put them in a dark growing space (a nice cool space that stays about 50 degrees in the winter). For several weeks the lilies grew roots and even began to sprout. After about 6 weeks (maybe the end of March) we moved them to the high tunnel to grow for the rest of their life. If we had had room we would have put them in the small heated greenhouse, but at that time of year it gets pretty full in there, with all the plants that will be going out into the field. In the high tunnel they grew and looked healthy and strong for the next couple months. Easter came and went. I began to wonder if the lilies would flower early at all, but finally, in the second week of June, they very quickly developed and opened. Wow! They were pretty and provided a focal flower for bouquets at exactly the time when our peonies had finished for the year. The funny thing was that they essentially flowered when the outside lilies flowered, so the timing was not what we hoped for. I still don't know what I did wrong, but it's ok.

It may surprise the average gardener to hear this, but June is notorious among flower growers for being a difficult month to have a constant flower supply. The spring flowers finish in May and the summer flowers haven't yet started. It's kind of the doldrums of summer--even though gardens can be beautiful during this time. Flower growers often rely on perennials and flowers like lilies to bridge this gap. So, I am glad the flowers made their appearance just exactly at the right time--even if I had hoped for them earlier.

Roselilies with sweetpeas, allium, snapdragons and Queen Anne's lace

We grew two more varieties to bloom in late summer--we picked bright colors that should work well in the summer. One of our most serious limitations was getting crates for planting because we had not yet collected the huge number of crates that we now use for tulip growing.

Bright yellow late summer lily

This has been an interesting experiment which, like many experiments, taught me that I know very little about the subject. I recently read an article about growing Easter lilies at a nearby commercial operation that was interesting. There's a lot of expertise that goes into bringing flowers to market.

Our second round of lilies were double orientals that are called "roselilies". I'm really in love with them. They are not nearly as strong in scent as old-fashioned oriental lilies (the beautiful "Star Gazer" is an oriental lily) and they do not produce the messy clothes-staining anthers that other lilies make. This alone makes them a winner for me, but they are also absolutely beautiful and really don't look like a lily. And like all liles they last a long time in a vase.


Our partner Sage, at Far Bungalow Farm grew a soft salmon asiastic lily this fall and all of us in our flower collective were smitten--we are all growing it next year--along with white and blush roselilies. When they will bloom we won't try to predict, but they'll bloom sometime....

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