A Bit of Bragging

– Posted in: What's up/blooming
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Pink Trumpet LilyI grew this lily from seed. Really. All by myself. Several years ago, my grandma sent me a letter with some seeds wrapped in wax paper. She had carefully handwritten “Pink Trumpet Lilies” on the piece of tape sealing the little package. She told me another woman in her nature discussion group gave them to her for me.

My grandmother knew I grew lots of plants from seed, but I don’t think she realized I only grew easy plants from seed. I knew lilies from seed would be hard because you don’t see lilies sold that way. They’re sold as bulbs. But I figured if my grandmother had that much faith in me, I ought to at least give it a try.

I can’t find my records on growing these lilies, which means either I didn’t keep any (hard to believe) or they’re buried somewhere (much easier to believe). So I’ll just tell you as much as I can remember of what I did, and if I ever find my notes I’ll edit this entry. I know I gave them cold treatment, I am just not sure if I potted them up in the fall and put them outside for the winter, or had them do 6 weeks in the fridge. When the cold treatment was done, by golly, they sprouted. Not all of them, but most of them, I think. Whenever I try a new horticultural technique, I’m always so surprised when it works. I should say, when it works for me, a mere mortal.

Lilies are monocots, which is a fancy way of saying when they sprout, they only have 1 seed leaf. And when this seed leaf emerges, it is bent in the middle, with both tip and base of the leaf in the soil. I know I killed at least one seedling trying to “help” it unbend. (Patience is a learned virtue.) I can’t remember what happened next, whether they did unbend on their own that first season or not, or what they looked like when they did, if they did. I do know they didn’t make much visible growth (presumably they were growing the beginnings of a bulb underground) and spent their first winter in pots, in my basement, where it is near freezing all winter. Unfortunately, voles also spend the winter in my basement, and at least one pot was raided for its nutritional value. I’m just glad they didn’t eat them all.

I’m pretty certain they spent the next year in pots, too, but whether I planted them out that fall, or put them in the basement for a second winter, I’m not sure. At any rate, by the time I did plant them out in the garden, there were only two of them left. I confess, some were killed by my neglect. The voles weren’t the only villains.

In the garden they still needed to build up strength. I didn’t expect any blossoms and I didn’t get any. But the next year, which was last year, I thought, “Finally, the payoff.” But it was not to be. First, we had really hot, summer-like weather in April, I mean, in the nineties, and not just one day of it, more like a week of it. Long enough to bring every plant out of dormancy and into growth mode. Then, of course, it got cold. Pretty darn cold. Into the teens at night, if memory serves, or maybe the low twenties. (All temps are Fahrenheit.) Peonies, lilacs, Oriental poppies–all didn’t bloom. Now I was in the hospital the whole month of April, and not in such hot shape for May, but whenever I first checked on these lilies last year, they were there, but didn’t look so hot. And the next time I looked, admittedly a month or two later, they were gone. I couldn’t even find brown and withered stalks anywhere. So then I thought, “That’s it, then. They got their death blow.”

Imagine how pleased I was to see the stalks emerging this spring, and how utterly delighted to discover buds on the stalks! I have to tell you, I looked at those buds nearly every day, checking for signs of pests or disease, scarcely believing that no further tragedy would befall my long-labored over plants.

This photo was taken on July 26, the day after the first bud opened. All four buds (two per plant) are now open, and the fragrance, especially in the evening, is wonderful.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

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jenn August 3, 2003, 9:37 pm

Sweet.