Flower Arranging With Lilies

If you have two loaves, sell one and buy a lily’. Taking this not quite literally let us turn our attention to lilies for flower arrangement. For some reason, perhaps because they are to a large extent grown as hot house plants, and provide flowers out of season, lilies are often associated with costliness and even extravagance. Though they are expensive to buy, lilies may still be more economical in the long run than other flowers because of their long lasting qualities. Once established in the garden they will prove an investment indeed.

There are, of course, many different kinds and colours of lilies, and of these there are at least four white ones which are reliable, elegant, useful for tall arrangements, and fairly easy to grow. One of these four, Lilium longiflorum, may need extra care and protection in certain areas, but the other three will flourish in almost any garden and most of them grow just as happily in pots or deep window boxes as they will in the border or among flowering shrubs. Two schools of thought exist on this matter of where to plant lilies in the garden.

One prefers to see them coming up against a background of flowering shrubs, providing lightness in contrast to the dark foliage when the shrubs have flowered. The other likes to see them in pots, standing on a terrace, sunk into a border, or decorating a flight of steps. One point in favour of having lilies in pots is that although they are more trouble to water, they can be easily moved about either to lighten a dark corner or to delight the nose with their delicious scent if placed near a garden seat.Flower Arranging With Lilies

The four lilies I have in mind are :

L. auratum or the gold-rayed lily of Japan. Robert Fortune describes finding this lily on one of his journeys into the mountains above Yokohama in July, 1861. ‘A very beautiful new lily was met with on the hillsides in full bloom, and its roots were dug up and added to my collection’.

This fine lily, with a honey scent, is white with a yellow stripe on the inside of the petals, chocolate brown spots and bright orange stamens. The flowers are sometimes nearly ten inches across. It lasts well when cut, and flowers which are still in bud will come out in water, prolonging the life of an arrangement by days. If the flowers appear to be too heavy for a small arrangement they can be cut off at the top of their stem and arranged towards the centre of the group.

The Madonna lily ( L. candidum), one of the oldest cultivated lilies, has been grown in England since the end of the sixteenth century (about 1596) and often appears in early religious paintings.

It flourishes in many cottage gardens under varying conditions. Sometimes it seems to like a rich soil, sometimes to resent it. Sometimes it likes sunshine, sometimes shade. It may well be described as capricious. The secret of growing the Madonna lily has not yet been completely discovered.

A border of these white lilies can be the focal point of a garden, and the charm of the flowers with their sweet scent is ample repayment for any trouble one takes to find out the conditions that suit them best. In flower arrangements Madonna lilies are especially connected with weddings, but a few of them can be a worthy addition to a group of mixed border flowers. L. longiflorum tall, elegant, and cool, is sometimes almost greeny white, in colour, and its curving foliage is an important part of the plant’s attraction, together with its sweet scent. These lilies are invaluable for church decoration.

As older flowers die and are cut off buds open to take their place. The species was introduced from Japan about 1820 and is popular for forcing because of its usefulness for ceremonial occasions.

This fine lily will grow successfully in pots and as it is not as hardy as the other three mentioned here, this is often a good way of growing it. L. lonaorum can start life in a cool greenhouse and then be brought out into the garden later. As it prefers to have its roots kept moist, a shady position with some sunshine is ideal, and the purity of the cool white flowers (six inches long by five inches wide is a general size) show up well against other green shrubs.Flower Arranging With Lilies 2

L. regale is not a clear white like the longiflorum or the Madonna lily as it is flushed with pink on the outside of the petals. However, L. regale is one of the prettiest and one of the easier species of this sometimes difficult family to establish:

This lily comes from Western China and usually flowers during July. It was found there in 1910 by E.H. Wilson when he was collecting plants for his American friend, Professor Sargent, for the Arnold Arboretum. Wilson had reason to remember finding this lily, for shortly after digging up quantities of its bulbs there was a severe landslide and he was thrown hundreds of feet down the hillside towards the river and one of his legs was smashed against a rock. On his return to America with the plants, his leg was saved by the skill of a surgeon, but he walked with a limp afterwards.

At this point it would be neglectful, I feel, not to mention the usefulness of the arum lily for flower arrangements, although it is not a true lily. The arum is perhaps best known for its reliability in church decoration. I have seen a large group used in Canterbury cathedral where an all round effect was needed and absolute dependability was essential. The clear and definite shape of each flower means that it can be effectively seen from every angle and its lasting qualities (often resistant to changes of temperature and even to droughts) are almost unique.

Arum leaves can be grown out of doors in many parts of England. In the south west, the Channel Islands, and the Scillies they are often to be seen, giving a slightly exotic touch to cottage gardens. However, most arums will survive as long as their bulbs are planted well down into the soil. To escape the depth of frost usually experienced during the winter. I have a friend who grows them close to the pond in his Kent garden and they are such good clumps that they are the envy of many neighbouring gardeners.

But even if arums do call for some extra trouble in their planting and care, they are worth every bit of it when one considers the value of their leaves for arrangements, quite apart from their flowers. One of the Editors of Amateur Gardening assures me that if they are planted in good soil (heavy clay for instance may cause the bulbs to rot), or where they are close to a depth of water which will protect them from frost, they can be regarded as reasonably hardy.

Here are some points to remember when arranging lilies: they last well if kept cool and given plenty of water to drink. They are suitable for various shapes and kinds of containers, although their regal qualities and the purity of their white flowers seem to be especially emphasised when they are arranged in glass.(I saw a tall yellow glass vase used effectively for. Flowers which stood beside the lectern in a church near Falmouth in Cornwall.) Try a tall glass container which will stand on the floor and still be high enough to be seen throughout the church (this would eliminate the use of a pedestal and is, I think, an idea worth remembering, especially for weddings.) A narrow neck means no other anchorage is necessary and once the flowers are fixed into position with the help of foliage or branches they will stay there.

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