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Archives from month » October, 2012

Lilies Bring Drama and Fragrance To The Garden


Lilies have long brought drama and beauty to the garden in a way that few other flowers can. Because many species are native to this area they are robust and thrive in Long Island gardens with a minimum of care. They can be grown in full sun or semi-shade, come in a multitude of colors, come up year after year and make excellent cut flowers. It’s important to note that if you are using lilies as cut flowers you need to be as stingy as possible with the length of the stem. The more stem and leaves you take away from the plant the less likely you will get a healthy productive plant the following year. 

Lilies are bulbs that can be planted either in the fall or spring, although those that are planted in the fall seem to get off to a better start. There are many types of lilies that are suited to garden life, so this gives the lily lover a variety of color, form and bloom time. Through careful planning the gardener can create a display of lilies that will start in June and go through to the end of August. The types of lilies that are best suited for the garden are Asiatic lilies, Oriental lilies, Trumpet lilies, Tigrinum or Tiger lilies, special hybrids such as Orienpets and LA lilies, and heirloom or species lilies.

Oriental lilies are the florist lilies that most of us are familiar with. The hybrid flowers are large, between 6 and 10 inches, and they are extremely fragrant. They have 6 large petals which are slightly curved back with large stamens and an exaggerated style ending in a dewy stigma. The plants grow between 3 and 4 feet high and look most dramatic when planted in clumps of at least three bulbs. Just a few plants can scent a whole garden. They flower in late June and go well into July. “Casa Blanca” is a pure white hybrid that is popular with florists and creates an impressive cornerstone for any garden. “Stargazer” is a robust older hybrid that has a profusion or vibrant red flowers. “Sumatra” is a deep burgundy color that will draw a lot of attention to your garden.

Asiatic lilies offer a wider variety of colors than the Orientals and are generally odorless. The plants are slightly shorter and more consistently around 3 feet. Colors in the Asiatics also tend to be more vibrant with bright hot reds, yellows and oranges. Stark multicolors also abound in this variety. They flower a few weeks earlier than the Orientals and they start in early June and go into July. Asiatics are reliable cut flowers and make a good substitute for those who are overpowered by the scent of the Orientals. There are a multitude of hybrids, as well as dwarf or pixie varieties for the front of the border.

Trumpet lilies are often called Chinese trumpet lilies because many hybrids came from China in the early 20th century. The flower form is more closed and outwardly recurving at the end producing a trumpet effect, hence the name. They are pleasantly scented, although not as strong as the Orientals. They bloom towards the end of July and through August.  They need to be planted in a sheltered area and staked, as they can grow as tall as 6 feet, so they look best in the back of perennial beds.

Tigrinum or tiger lilies are hardy and very floriferous. Their form is similar to Orientals, but the flowers are smaller and more extremely recurred. They grow between 3 and 6 feet and can have as many as 20 flowers on a stem. The most common Tigrinum lily is the one we call “Tiger” lily. It is orange with dark spots and is very hardy and considered an heirloom garden plant and can grow for generations in a garden.

Species lilies tolerate more shade, as many are native to dark forests floors. They are much more fussy and difficult to grow requiring their specific native habitats to be duplicated.  Many bloom on large multi-branched bracts with their extremely recurved blooms hanging downward creating an elaborate candelabra effect. Recently they have been hybridized, creating types that are easier to grow in the average garden.

Besides the species lilies, the other varieties are hardy and easy to grow and will reward you with gorgeous, eye-catching flowers. If you grow a few it will only take a season for you to find out why they are often called the “Queen of the Garden.”


This profusion of Casa Blanca Oriental Lilies started with only three bulbs. They divided and surrounded the sign, creating a gorgeous explosion of large, fragrant white flowers every July.


My last lilies to flower, the Tiger Lilies make a bright orange splash in the corner of the garden in August.


These Asiatic lilies were purchased in a combination package called “Strawberries and Cream” and included a red variety that flowered earlier than the group.


The Oriental Lily “Sumatra” make incredible cut flower displays and until recently were only available as cut flowers at the florist.


The Trumpet Lily “Black Dragon” has interesting coloration as well as a subtle alluring fragrance.


Rows of Asiatic lilies grow trouble-free in the cutting garden.


Orientals and Trumpets have been hybridized to create a hardy combination called “Orienpets.” They have tree-trunk sized stems, grow very tall and have unique colors. Here they are displayed on the dinning room table with flowers from the common weed “Queen Anne’s Lace.”


“Stargazer” Oriental lilies bloom in the center of the perennial garden.


The sun shines through a group of Orienpet Lilies in the cutting garden.


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Quick and Easy, How to Make a Fall Themed Dried Flower Wreath

Making a fall themed dried flower wreath is surprisingly quick, easy and inexpensive. Using a left over wreath frame (1) and some green colored Spanish moss (2) and wired ribbon (3) that I already had, as well as dried flowers (4) I either grew or collected in from a field, this wreath literally cost me next to nothing to make. Of course if you need to purchase materials, your costs could be considerably higher, depending on what you want to use and where you get your materials from.


(A) First gather what you need to make the wreath. I started with a large wire frame. This can be purchased at a craft store for a few dollars. (5) A spool of flower wire should cost less than two dollars. (6) Pruning sheers or very sturdy scissors are needed and some sort of material to cover the frame. I use Spanish moss, generally found in a natural grey color, the moss I used for this project is died a light green and a small bag should be enough to cover the frame. I have spent anywhere from $3-$5 for a bag of this moss. The flowers can be the most costly part of this project, but I grew the Hydrangeas, and the pumpkin on a stick in my garden. The golden rod was collected from a local field and dried in my shop. I only used three types of flowers for this project, but you can use whatever you want. Keep in mind when purchasing them, in order to do a wreath of this size you may need to buy from 2-6 packages of each type of flower. Dried flowers can cost between $4 and $10 a package. Even if you can provide one or two types of flowers without buying them, your savings would be significant. I have used over a dozen types of flowers in wreaths I have made in the past, but in this case three types seems to provide the texture, color and variation needed to make an attractive wreath.


(B) Next cover the wreath frame with Spanish moss. Although you will probably not be able to see the moss when the wreath is finished, it ensures that the frame will not be seen and gives the wreath depth and a professional finish. Loosely stretch the moss over the top of the frame. Gently lift the frame and moss and with a long piece of wire go around the wreath and moss with the wire, securing the moss to the frame, twisting it tight. With the remainder of the wire go around the moss and the frame loosely and keep going around all away around the circumference of the frame. It does not have to be extremely tight because wiring the flowers on will further bind it to the frame. Once you have circumnavigated the entire frame twist tie the wire at the point you started to finish.


Then using whatever flowers you wish, make a bouquet, (C) roughly the way you want them to appear on the wreath. In my case I am using the Hydrangea as a base, so I put that down first. Then I laid down the Golden Rod and finally the Pumpkin on a stick. I wired the bouquet together and then wired it to the wreath frame


(D). You repeat this process, making sure, as you lay them down, the flower heads of the new bouquet cover the stems of the previous bouquet. In order to ensure coverage or the previous stems, you may want to arrange the bouquet directly on the wreath and wire the arrangement down. This way you can ensure placement, coverage and create a unified look for the wreath. Go all the way around the wreath until it is fully covered and finish with a bow. You can tuck the stems from the last bouquet under the flowers from the first. If you do a good job of this, you don’t need a bow. But a blow makes the wreath look good and it is a logical finish.  To further ensure coverage, I put down a flower head of Hydrangea and tied the bow around it. This filled everything in at the end and blended with the look of the wreath.


(E) I used a wired ribbon bow, but raffia or paper ribbon work well with dried flowers.  Wire the ribbon to the frame. To hang the wreath make sure you wire surrounds the frame, twist a loop and finish it well to support the weight. 

Outdoors, in a protected area, this wreath should last between 3-8 weeks. Indoors, it would last a year, if put away seasonally in a box in a dry storage area it could last several years. Pests, dampness, fading flowers, mildew or dust will be what eventually ruins it. But until that time you will have a beautiful, festive and welcoming wreath that takes less than an hour to make.