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Bellefontaine In Bloom – Lilies

Jun 8

jason nameThe month of June brings BCA’s diverse collection of lilies into full bloom.  True bulbous lilies, Lilium, cemetery lilies, Crinum, and hardy water lilies, Nymphaea, provide visitors myriad colors, textures, and fragrances.

Lillium regale, trumpet lily

Lillium regale, trumpet lily

In the gardens of Wildwood Valley, twenty varieties and 3,125 total bulbs of true lilies, Lilium, were planted last fall, including Asiatic, Dwarf Asiatic, Longiflorum-Asiatic, Orienpet, and Trumpet classifications.  Orienpet and trumpet lilies are exquisitely perfumed, especially in the evening and early morning hours. Horticulturally, true lilies are perennial bulbous members of the lily family, Liliaceae, easily grown in most garden settings, and well-adapted to the St. Louis climate.  Planted in late fall and early spring, they emerge in early spring and flower from late May through mid-July.  Atypical of many hardy bulbs, their foliage persists from spring until late fall, providing a unique textural and architectural element to the garden.  Symbolically, lilies represent innocence and purity.  The Easter lily, Lilium longiflorum, most frequently depicted on our gravestones, represents resurrection and the innocence of the soul being restored upon death.

Asiatic lily, Lilium 'Nettie's Pride'

Asiatic lily, Lilium ‘Nettie’s Pride’

Asiatic lily, Lilium 'Rosella's Dream'

Asiatic lily, Lilium ‘Rosella’s Dream’

Another new planting in Wildwood Valley is our collection of cemetery lilies, Crinum, also known as milk-and-wine lilies.  Six varieties and 50 football-sized bulbs were planted last summer, including the hardy species C. bulbispermum and an assortment of what are known as “complex hybrids” involving C. bulbispermum and other species and hybrid groups.

Crinum herbertii

Crinum herbertii

Cemetery lilies are noted for their large, cascading strap-like leaves and tall stems supporting heady, fragrant trumpets of dark pink to pure white.  Cemetery lilies are perennial bulbous members of the amaryllis family, Amaryllidaceae.  Divided into hardy and non-hardy groups, based in their specific origin and pedigree, cemetery lilies are easily grown, very long-lived garden plants that flower intermittently from early May through October in St. Louis.  Planted in late spring and early summer, the hardy group may take two years to fully settle in; thereafter, they will persist for decades with minimal care.  A mature bulb can easily weigh 20 pounds!  Ubiquitous in the Deep South, cemetery lilies get their name from their abundant use in cemeteries, as their flowers morphologically resemble true lilies which do not grow well in areas without a defined cold period, or vernalization.

Immediately south of the Wildwood Valley Columbarium, in the Sunset Pool just before the lower Cascade Lake, visitors will find our collection of hardy water lilies, Nymphaea.  Known as the “jewels of the pond,” a half-dozen varieties of exceptionally fragrant flowers ranging from pure white to deep pink, cream, and peach adorn this pool, evoking the famous paintings of Monet.

Sunset Pool

Sunset Pool

Hardy water lilies are perennial aquatic plants in the water lily family, Nyphaeaceae.  They can remain in the pond year-round. Planted in spring, they will produce new leaves and flowers each spring and generally flower from May through early October in St. Louis. Their flowers come in a variety of colors, and open in the early morning and close in the late afternoon. Some hardy water lily flowers change color shades over the life of the bloom.  Water lilies grow completely within water, with their blossoms flourishing on top of or above the water’s surface. They typically grow to suit the size of the area in which they are placed, spreading their leaves across the surface of the water and filling it with color.  Depicitons of water lilies often represent rebirth, optimism, peace, and purity.

Plan to visit us soon to see–and smell–our many colorful lilies.

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Compiled by Cara L. Crocker

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