Thursday, May 15, 2014

Looks Like A Lily Year

A USDA hardiness map shows a long frigid finger of cold reaching from the high wilds of the Adirondack Mountains nearly to the Pennsylvania State line.  Our garden is centered near the southern tip of that cold.  Killing frost is likely here for most of the month of May.  Last season early extreme warmth drew the lilies from the ground many weeks before their usual emergence time.  Our attempts to provide frost protection for that many weeks stressed both plants and gardener.  This year our late Spring has kept the lilies safely in the ground until just recently.  The first picture shows eight emerging lilies and a marking stone.  It also shows a covering of reground tree bark mulch from a local lumber mill.  All of these factors worked together to delay emergence until a more seasonally correct time.

These lilies are planted in a three gallon pot.  Clustered together, all thirty pots of these lilies can be covered with a single tarp.  When frost is less likely, the plants will be removed from their pots and placed around the garden for the remainder of the growing season. Fall will see the best bulbs returned to pots in preparation for the Winter.  This year the mulch blanket held frost in the ground until just recently.  It will be a far easier task to transplant these short lilies compared to last year's nightmare of trying to unpot fully grown plants with exposed buds.

Our first lily is still hanging on here.  One bulb has become two and this earliest riser will be covered in place when frost threatens. Sometimes being short is an advantage.  A 5 gallon pail should be large enough to cover this lily.  Other lilies could similarly hold a spot in the garden if other plants are kept far enough away to accommodate a covering 30 gallon trash can without damaging the nearby plants.  That requires a lot of bare ground.

These Simplon lilies tested my courage.  The original three bulbs had become at least six and the strength of will had to be found to dig them up and pry them apart.  All three bulbs Fall placed here are growing with one having divided over the supposedly dormant time of late Fall and Winter.  The second planting of these bulbs is just now starting to push the mulch aside so the number of survivors there is for the moment unknown.  At the time the moment of separation seemed violent but it appears that the bulbs healed the wounds.

With more than three dozen groups of lilies scattered about, one would think that no new ones are needed.  Want trumps need here and our two kinds of new lilies are just now pushing through the soil. Proud Bride is a shorter white variety that could replace L. longiflorum as our forced Easter Lily.  This year our Easter lilies displayed splendid green growth and a total lack of flowers.  When their die down is complete, we will look to see if sizable bulbs followed the no flowers year.  Table dance, I am ashamed to admit, was selected in part for its name.

We have recently seen a male oriole flying across the garden.  His flashy orange and black plumage is an eye catcher that is pleasing to see but we remember the damage done to our lily buds and flowers by a family group of these same birds a few years ago.  The following year wire cages with bird netting were placed to protect the remaining flowers but that is both unsightly and extra work.  If this bird is nesting nearby, we may return to the ugly cages.

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