Learning from You:
Beating the Lily Leaf Beetle with IPM

In our March newsletter, we published “If You Give a Friend a Lily” about our good customer Randy Merrill and her lily-obsessed friend Paul Siskind.

Soon after, Paul emailed us saying, “As part of my research on the red lily leaf beetle, I developed an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach for controlling it in a relatively safe manner” – and here it is. Thank you, Paul!

Start early – The most important strategy is starting early, as soon as your lilies break dormancy. [We know it’s too late for that this year, but ….]

Keep at it all season long – Controlling beetles and grubs throughout the season, even if your lilies look okay, will cut down on the beetles that attack them next year.

Hand-picking is key – It may not be enough by itself, but hand-picking is safer than using insecticides and it will reduce the amount of insecticide you need to use. Diligence and thoroughness are critical, especially in the first 4-6 weeks of the season. Try to hand-pick at least once a day then. After mid-season, this chore will lessen considerably.

How to hand-pick – Fill a coffee mug half-way with soapy water. For beetles, slowly move the mug under the leaf that the beetle is on so that, when it startles and lets go, it falls into the mug. For grubs, which are slimy and difficult to squash, hold the mug under the leaf and flick the grub into it. For eggs and newly-hatched grubs, which are usually hidden on the underside of leaves, either run your fingers along the leaf blade to squash them or simply cut off the outer half of the leaf.

Best pesticide – If you have a moderate to severe infestation, the most effective insecticide is spinosad, because it kills both beetles and grubs. However .…

Avoid resistance – One of the principles of IPM is to prevent the pest from developing resistance to an insecticide. Thus, this method also calls for using neem oil. Even though neem oil kills only grubs (it repels beetles), it’s important to kill any grubs that might become resistant to spinosad.

Use the RIGHT neem oil – Neem oil is extracted in two different ways, but only one works for lily leaf grubs. Unfortunately, alcohol-extracted neem oil – which is most common – contains only ‘clarified hydrophobic extracts of neem’ and lacks the grub-killing compound azadirachtin. What you need instead is cold-pressed neem oil which is sometimes listed as ‘pure’ neem oil.

How to spray – As with any insecticide, use as little as necessary. Aim directly at the lily leaves only and avoid spraying the flowers. Avoid spraying when it’s windy or in midday sun which can cause leaf-burn.

When to spray – At the beginning of the season, try to spray the lilies twice a week, once with spinosad and then a few days later with neem. On days you don’t spray, do your usual hand-picking. After 4-6 weeks, the beetles mostly stop laying eggs, and you should see a marked decline in the number of beetles and grubs. At this point, reduce spraying to once a week with spinosad. If you find some grubs, you can spot-spray with neem. Continue hand-picking.

Diatomaceous earth – Although dusting with this is often recommended, my studies have shown that it’s not that effective. There’s no harm in using it, though, and it may help some.

Deer repellent with clove oil – If you use deer repellent, choose one with clove oil because that seems to be at least somewhat effective in killing or at least repelling the beetles.

Be patient and have faith – It might take a full season (or two) to subdue a bad infestation, but once it’s under control I think you’ll find it’s not that difficult to incorporate this IPM method into your normal gardening routine.”


If You Give a Friend a Lily . . .
(or “Look What You’ve Done to Me!”)

lily-beetle resistant Henry’s lily

We gardeners love to share our love of gardening, don’t we? Whether it’s a fresh-picked bouquet, a start of a favorite plant, or simply a helpful tip, many of us have learned that sharing can make gardening even more fun – as it has for our good customer Randy Merrill of Colton, New York.

“I gifted one of your lilies to a friend,” Randy emailed us last month. “With that one lily, his first, he has turned into an expert on lilies and has taken on the science of the little red lily beetle which eats lilies. He has a garden full of hybrids and whenever I visit he takes me on a tour to give me updates on each of them, then ends the tour saying ‘Look what you’ve done to me!’ I have spent many hours assisting him with his experiments, and he has even published papers on this little red bug in science journals.

“Last spring, I found a red lily beetle in my garden. My friend didn’t believe me, said it was too early. Thirty minutes later he showed up in my garden and had to give me credit for adding evidence that these critters appear earlier in the year than anyone realized.

“I also told him where some lilies are growing in the wild near here [in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park]. He thinks it might be a variety that has never been discovered, and if so he says he will name it after me.”

So if you ever read about a newly discovered lily named Lilium merrillii – or maybe L. randyi? – remember that it all started with Randy giving her friend one of our amazing lilies.

(P.S. You can order all of our lilies right now, and five of them are spring-shipped!)


“My Favorite Lily” –
A Tough, Rose-Tinted Beauty to Plant this Spring

Chuck Robinson’s favorite lily, Lilium speciosum var. rubrum, has “survived wonderfully … for more than ten years” in his zone-6 garden in Kansas City, Missouri.

But that’s just one reason he loves it, he writes in the June 2020 Quarterly Bulletin of the North American Lily Society. Another is that “it blooms late, in mid- to late July and even into August, extending the lily bloom season for us and providing a much-appreciated spot of color during the heat of summer.”

Also L. speciosum is known for its virus resistance,” Chuck adds, “as noted by lily breeder Judith Freeman in discussing her Hall of Fame lily ‘Anastasia’ which has some L. speciosum ancestry.” It’s also thought to be in the DNA of Leslie Woodriff’s ‘Stargazer’. It certainly is an ancestor of Woodriff’s famous ‘Black Beauty’” (which we ship in the fall.)

The most famous L. speciosum cultivar is ‘Uchida’ [which we ship in April]. It is named for Hirotaka Uchida of Japan, who grew and exported bulbs before World War II…. Uchida particularly liked L. speciosum rubrum and selected and cultivated the best forms.

“With Japan’s attack on China and the start of World War II, flower fields in Japan were discouraged in favor of food production. Uchida and his son safeguarded a small cache of L. speciosum clones, however. After the war, when lily bulb exports resumed, the Uchidas exported 60 bulbs to the West.”

The tough, rose-tinted beauty the Uchidas had nurtured for so long “won a gold medal in 1963 at the Internationalle Gartenbau Ausstellung garden exposition in Hamburg, Germany” and before long had become one of the world’s most popular lilies – one that you could enjoy in your garden this summer by ordering now!


Garden Gate’s Top Picks: 3 “Thrilling Lilies”

“For lily lovers, nothing is more exciting than the launch of lily season,” writes Susan Martin in the June 2020 Garden Gate. “These towering flowers are definitely ‘thrillers’,” she says, and “ideal for people looking to squeeze more color into chock-full garden beds since their narrow habit takes up a small footprint.”

Three of our heirlooms, we're happy to say, made Susan’s list of “top picks.”

‘Black Beauty’ (fall-shipped) – “Lily breeder Leslie Woodriff may be best-known for creating the ‘Stargazer’ lily,” Susan writes, “but many consider ‘Black Beauty’ … to be his crowning achievement….

“Anywhere from 20 to 40 lightly fragrant flowers line the towering stems … with dark raspberry-pink petals which reflex back to reveal a lime-green center starburst…. Described as ‘indestructible’ by many lily growers, this vigorous, long-lived variety is as elegant as it is durable.”

‘Gold Band’ (spring-shipped) – “The clear coloration and pristine form of this lily’s flowers will stop you in your tracks,” Susan says. Although it was “first sold in 1862, it has the look of a fresh new introduction….

“Huge blossoms up to 10 inches across open to reveal silky white petals, exuding a sweet fragrance that draws in passersby. Each lightly ruffled petal bears a glowing gold stripe down the center, while a dusting of cinnamon sprinkles completes the look. This lily will thrive in a cool spot that receives bright, filtered sun and requires acid soil to return well each year.”

Henry’s lily (spring-shipped) – “We couldn’t talk about lilies without mentioning this ancestor of many popular hybrid lilies,” Susan writes. Henry’s lily “is easy to grow and looks right at home in woodland gardens where it glows in the filtered shade of tall trees.

“It bursts onto the scene in midsummer with tall panicles carrying 10 to 20 nodding, reflexed orange blossoms apiece. Each flower is painted liberally with maroon spots. As the bulbs mature, their flower count increases and their stalks tower upwards of 6 feet.” (Please note that the flower pictured in the article was tiger lily, not Henry’s lily – pictured here – which is a much more golden orange and, to my eye, more beautiful.)


Martha Stewart’s 300-Foot Border of Tiger Lilies

Some gardeners shy away from orange, but not Martha Stewart – as you can see in this photo from the July-August 2019 Martha Stewart Living.

That’s the driveway to Martha’s home in Bedford, New York, flanked by a 300-foot-long pergola. Wisteria and clematis drape the pergola and along its sides are six-foot-wide borders filled with crocus, grape hyacinths, alliums, and various perennials in shades of “mauve, lavender, violet, purple, and blue.”

But Martha wanted more color and a longer bloom season, so first she “sprinkled in a few kinds of orange poppies” and then she planted hundreds of tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium). Now “just as everything else begins to fade”, the lilies “explode into fat rows of tall, sturdy stems” and then “unfurl their spotted petals at the end of July, transforming the border into a sweep of orange.”

See more at – and then if you want to see what a little orange can do for your mid-summer garden, order a few of these easy, enduring lilies now for planting this fall.


Peonies, Lilies, and Stroopwafels, Oh My!
— Our Trip to the Netherlands

Justin with Henry’s lilies

Although spring is definitely the best time to visit the Netherlands, we’re always way too busy shipping and planting bulbs then, so it was the first of June before Vanessa, Rita, and Justin got there – but they still found plenty to see and enjoy.

Can you smell that fragrance?

LILIES – They arrived just in time for Lily Days which is when Dutch lily farmers and hybridizers showcase their lilies in vast greenhouse displays for potential buyers that come from around the world.

“Opening the doors to the greenhouses,” Vanessa told me, “sent your nose into a frenzy with the powerful fragrance of a thousand lilies all blooming at once.” Although most were modern varieties, some heirlooms we offer were also on display including ‘African Queen’, ‘Golden Splendor’, ‘Pink Perfection’, and (for spring planting) gold-band lily and Henry’s lily.

acres and acres of peonies, old and new

PEONIES – Since it was peony season they also saw a LOT of peonies, and an impressive number of these were heirlooms. “Walking through the peony fields was almost like visiting a museum,” Vanessa said, “and the care taken to grow these plants is inspiring.”

Justin said he “liked all of them” and was constantly “imagining where to use such a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes” at his house. He was also impressed by how many of the Dutch devoted “a small chunk of their backyard – maybe 2000 square feet or so – to growing peonies for cut flowers.”

Which ones would you choose for your garden?

SMALL FARMERS – Just like in the United States, small farms in the Netherlands are slowly being swallowed up by larger operations. But just like here, young Dutch farmers are finding new ways to make small farming work.

One of these farmers is Jan Hein. As Justin explained, he’s “a young grower, close to my age. He grows a few things for us now” – including ‘Prince of Austria’, ‘Phillipe de Comines’, and ‘Zomerschoon’ – but he wants to grow much more.” Vanessa told me that “because Jan plants fewer than 500 bulbs of each of these varieties, they are all dug by hand and processed through an antique-looking machine.” Justin added that “his dad was a bulb grower so he grew up a farmer, and he loves the history and special characteristics of heirloom bulbs. For us at Old House Gardens, this is good news. We need motivated and passionate people to help us save these bulbs.”

Rita and her stroopwafel

ART, BIKES, & STROOPWAFELS – Of course there’s more to the Netherlands than flowers. Rita “loved the country’s bicycle culture” and was “amazed by the bicycle parking lots, including the Fietsflat which holds 2500 bikes.” She also said they “made quite an adventure out of sampling all the wonderful foods of the Netherlands. One night we waited in line for over ten minutes to have a freshly made stroopwafel. I skipped the chocolate dip and extra toppings and just went for the basic version. YUM!”

Justin said he especially liked seeing the work of two of the Netherlands’ greatest artists, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Both, he said, were “masters of preserving a moment in time with incredible depth and clarity,” and he added (gladdening my heart) that “heirloom flowers have a unique connection to the past in a similar way. They are the result of the creative works of nature and humans’ adoration of nature.”


Do Tiger Swallowtails Like Orange Lilies Best?

We’re not sure, but when I saw this tiger swallowtail feeding on my Henry’s lilies last summer, I remembered garden-writer Felder Rushing telling me that they flocked to the double tiger lilies in his Mississippi garden.

Could it be that the orange color and turk’s-cap form remind them of similar North American natives such as Lilium superbum that they’ve been feeding on for millennia?

Lilium superbum

If you want to see for yourself, Henry’s lily is one of four spring-planted lilies we’re shipping this April, and you can also order our two tiger lilies and L. superbum now for fall shipping.

P.S. If these incredible butterflies visit your orange lilies this summer, please send us pictures!


Good News about the Red Lily Leaf Beetle

When my sister and her family visited us from Massachusetts this past summer, my brother-in-law had some exciting news – after years of being plagued by red lily leaf beetles, he’d seen very few in their garden this year. The parasitic wasps seem to be working!

If these voracious beetles aren’t in your garden yet, they’re on their way. They first appeared in Massachusetts in 1992 and have since spread throughout New England and into New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Washington.

In an attempt to control the beetles, researchers at the University of Rhode Island have released three species of tiny parasitic wasps. Two of these have slowly spread throughout New England, and it looks like they’re finally making a difference in my brother-in-law’s garden.

To learn more, see Margaret Roach’s excellent interview with Lisa Tewksbury of the Rhode Island University Biological Control Lab at

And if you’re looking for a beetle-resistant lily, Tewksbury highly recommends ‘Black Beauty’. Although adult beetles may feed on it a little, she says, the larvae never do because eggs laid on it just die.


Our Madonna Lilies Bloom
at the Washington National Cathedral

in the Bishop’s Garden

It’s always good to hear from our customers, and we love seeing photos of our bulbs in your gardens – such as the one here from our good customer Adrienne Schopf of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

“I just wanted to send you guys a few pictures of the Madonna lilies that we planted last fall,” Adrienne wrote. “They’re doing well in our Bishop’s Garden. They’re planted in an area we call the Hortulus where we have different herbs that were planted at monasteries in the 9th century, so these lilies fit in perfectly.

in our garden

“We’d been having a hard time finding them and were very excited that you offered them. We’ve ordered more from you guys for this fall. Thank you for providing such great plants and keeping the older varieties around!”

You’re welcome, Adrienne, and thanks for sharing these deeply historic lilies with your many visitors!

To enjoy this fragrant beauty in your own 21st-century garden, order now for October delivery.


“Easy, Inexpensive, and Intoxicating” Regal Lily

“There are few plants as rewarding and foolproof” as bulbs, Dan Cooper wrote recently at his Frustrated Gardener blog. Most are “bold, colorful, long-flowering, and best of all inexpensive, giving gardeners plenty of bang for their buck. In short, they are one of the plant world’s best investments.”

Regal lilies are one of Dan’s favorite summer-flowering bulbs.

“Here’s a bulb with class, elegance and history,” he writes. “No wonder it was named Lilium regale, the regal lily. It was introduced to England from China in 1903 by Ernest Henry Wilson and quickly became a favorite of Gertrude Jekyll, who used it prolifically in her garden designs at a time when it would have been quite a novelty.

“Jekyll would frequently plant large clumps of Lilium regale in strategic spots, creating height and drama at pivotal points in her schemes. In addition to stature, the lilies also contributed intoxicating scent and blushing white flowers that stood out well against dark foliage. . . .”

“There is no flower so exquisite as Lilium regale at dusk on a warm June evening, glowing in the gloaming and sharing its intoxicating perfume,” Dan writes in closing. “Plant plenty, and then plant some more.

We couldn’t agree with him more! To enjoy these intoxicating beauties in your own garden, order now for delivery at planting time this fall.


Which Lily to Choose?
Swiss Expert Recommends 8 of Ours

It’s lily season! The martagons are blooming here in our Ann Arbor gardens, along with the last of our iris and masses of peonies. Coral lilies will be next, and then regal lilies, Madonna lilies, and on and on well into August.

To help you decide which of these dramatic flowers to add to your garden, here’s what Swiss lily expert and nurseryman Pontus Wallsten had to say about eight of ours in the January 2018 issue of Gardens Illustrated.

In order of bloom-time:

‘Golden Splendor’, 1957

‘Golden Splendor’ – “A vigorous, fragrant trumpet hybrid. The yellow flowers have a darker, purple reverse, and are held on strong stems. Bulbs will eventually reach the size of a small melon. RHS AGM.”

Coral lily – “This little gem has a spicy fragrance.” (Spring-shipped.)

Regal lily – “By the wall of my house is a small clump of bulbs that have flowered faithfully for the past nine years, filling the summer air with the sweet scent of jasmine, and requiring no particular effort on my part. RHS AGM.”

‘African Queen’ – “Fragrant, vivid-orange flowers. Very vigorous and long-lived, it is happy in any well-drained, humus-rich spot in full sun or afternoon shade. RHS AGM.”

‘Pink Perfection’ – “A superb trumpet hybrid that produces big, highly fragrant flowers in July. It is very disease-resistant and will thrive in any well-drained spot in full sun or afternoon shade with very little care. RHS AGM”

‘Pink Perfection’, 1950

Henry’s lily – “A vigorous and long-lived species, producing 40 flowers or more, July to August. Best in part shade as color can fade in full sun. Stems can arch towards light, so may need staking. RHS AGM” (Spring-shipped.)

Gold-band lily – “Produces some of the largest, most fragrant flowers of any lily.” (Best in acid soils.)

‘Black Beauty’ (pictured at top) – “An almost indestructible hybrid with sturdy, bamboo-like stems that can hold more than 50 dark-purple flowers with a green-and-black center. Each peduncle usually produces a secondary bud that opens once the first has finished so flowering lasts for almost two months.”

We hope this helps. Order now for delivery at planting time – and next summer you’ll be raving about them yourself!


Henry’s Lily Stars in Historic English Gardens

Underappreciated Henry’s lily is one of my favorite lilies, so I was happy to see it featured not once but twice in the September 2017 issue of The English Garden.

Henry’s Lily Stars in Historic English Gardens –

In the gardens at Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire, “history and heritage meet modern planting techniques” inspired by Piet Oudolf. There “the soft orange flowers of Lilium henryi are used abundantly throughout the herbaceous borders,” combined with great swaths of hollyhocks, agapanthus, and American natives Joe Pye weed and Rudbeckia.

Henry’s lily also plays a major role at West Dean Gardens, a “formidable horticultural powerhouse” in West Sussex. This glorious two-page photograph of the historic walled garden there shows it blooming exuberantly (center and right) in the Hot Border which “smolders across the length of the kitchen garden’s greenery.”

Henry’s Lily Stars in Historic English Gardens –
Henry’s lily with ‘David Howard’ dahlia

Henry’s lily “grows like stink and is a real good do-er,” says gardens supervisor Sarah Wain. It’s one of the “stalwarts” of the border, along with “heleniums ‘Butterpat’ and ‘Moerheim Beauty’, daylilies, Solidago [goldenrod], Sedum, Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, Potentilla ‘Gibson Scarlet’, and Rudbeckia fulgida.”

California poppies, nasturtiums, and ‘David Howard’ dahlia also figure prominently in the Hot Border, along with Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ As luck would have it, I planted a clump of ‘Lucifer’ next to the Henry’s lilies in my backyard this summer, and though it may not have been West Dean’s Hot Border, they did look great together.

To give this wildflowery, easy-growing lily a try in your garden, order a few now for spring planting!


Regal Lilies Blooming in the Wilds of China

Regal Lilies Blooming in the Wilds of China –

Regal lilies will be blooming here soon, and every year when their fragrance fills the air I’m reminded of a scene described by E.H. “Chinese” Wilson, the great plant explorer who first brought them to America.

Of the 2000 plants Wilson collected in his eight trips to Asia, the regal lily was his favorite – although an avalanche broke his leg while he was collecting it and he walked the rest of his life with what he called his “lily limp.” In his 1917 book, Aristocrats of the Garden, he writes:

“Journey in thought with me for a moment or two, westward . . . to Shanghai, gateway of far Cathay; onward and westward up the mighty Yangtsze River for 1800 miles, then northward up its tributary the Min some 250 miles to the confines of mysterious Tibet; to that little-known hinterland which separates China proper from the hierarchy of Lhassa; to a wild and mountainous country . . . where mighty empires meet.

“There in narrow, semi-arid valleys, down which torrents thunder, and encompassed by mountains composed of mud-shales and granites whose peaks are clothed with snow eternal, the regal lily has her home. In summer the heat is terrific, in winter the cold is intense, and at all seasons these valleys are subject to sudden and violent wind-storms against which neither man nor beast can make headway.

“There in June, by the wayside, in rock-crevice by the torrent’s edge and high up on the mountainside and precipice, this lily in full bloom greets the weary wayfarer. Not in twos and threes but in hundreds, in thousands, aye, in tens of thousands. Its slender stems . . . , flexible and tense as steel, overtop the coarse grasses and scrub and are crowned with . . . large funnel-shaped flowers, each more or less wine-colored without, pure white and lustrous on the face, clear canary-yellow within the tube and each stamen filament tipped with a golden anther.

“The air in the cool of the morning and in the evening is laden with delicious perfume exhaled from every blossom. For a brief season this lily transforms a lonely, semi-desert region into a veritable fairyland.”

Thanks to Wilson's heroic efforts, it’s easy enjoy a bit of this grand fairyland in your own backyard. Simply order now for fall delivery!


Our Tiger Lilies “Look Amazing” at
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Home

Tiger lilies were Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite flower, and he grew masses of them in the gardens of Taliesin, his spectacular Wisconsin home and studio.

Jessica Tripalin, Cultural Landscape Coordinator at Taliesin, emailed us earlier this summer saying, “The 50 tiger lilies you sent us last fall look amazing in the gardens here.”

“The preservation crew is aiming to restore the entire estate to the year Mr. Wright passed,” she continued. “Our goal is to attain the look and feel of 1959. I am so happy with the results in the gardens this year. Thank you so much for your beautiful plants!”

Jessica also sent us this photo of a few of our tiger lilies blooming in front of one of Taliesin’s massive stone chimneys and the intricate iron-pipe trelliswork that Wright designed for the gardens.

Tiger lilies are native to Japan and were frequently depicted in Japanese art. It’s easy to see how their simplicity, grace, and drama appealed to Wright, and no doubt they also reminded him of the months he lived in Tokyo while overseeing the construction of his early masterpiece, the Imperial Hotel.

To learn more about Wright’s gardens, read our review of Derek Fell’s The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright.


‘Black Beauty’ is
Blogger’s “Top Draw for Butterflies”

In a recent post at her award-winning blog The Garden Diaries, Claire Jones writes that the “top draw for butterflies” in her Maryland garden is the gorgeous, easy-to-grow ‘Black Beauty’ lily. She even includes a short video of a half-dozen tiger swallowtails blissfully sipping nectar from the lily’s deep raspberry-colored flowers.

Claire’s post also introduced me to “butterflying,” which she defines as observing and photographing these beautiful pollinators. Along with helpful tips for attracting and taking digital photos of them, she offers some fascinating facts about butterflies. For example, did you know that butterflies taste things with their feet?

August is a great month for butterflying, with many of the 765 species in North American active then. To enjoy more of them in your garden, read Claire’s tips – and maybe plant a few ‘Black Beauty’ lilies this fall.


2016 Great Plant Picks:
They’re Not Just for Humans

Every year since 2001, Seattle’s Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden has released an annual list of Great Plant Picks. Although especially well-suited to gardens in the Pacific Northwest, many of these plants are also outstanding choices for gardens across the country.

Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds are the focus of this year’s GPP list, and Rick Peterson provides an excellent introduction to it in Pacific Horticulture.

“As temperatures warm, bees emerge from their winter slumber looking for nourishment,” Peterson writes, and since “crocus are among the garden’s earliest blooming bulbs,” the GPP list includes several such as C. tommasinianus, ‘Jeanne d’Arc’, ‘King of the Striped’, and ‘Mammoth Yellow’.

A few species tulips are also recommended, including T. clusiana and T. sylvestris which will have bees “bustling around the garden with satisfaction” and, in the right spot, will “reliably return year after year.”

Other Great Plant Picks that we’re offering now for delivery this fall include: extra early-blooming winter aconite, traditional snowdrop, and giant snowdrop, wildflowery Grecian windflower, ‘Gravetye Giant’ snowflake, and sowbread cyclamen, classic ‘Saint Keverne’, ‘Thalia’, and pheasant’s-eye daffodils, and elegant martagon and regal lilies.

Learn more and see the entire list organized into categories such as “Fantastic Foliage,” “Made in the Shade,” and “Plants that Make Scents” at

Crocus tommasinianus
martagon lily
‘Thalia’ daffodil

Learning from You: Lilies in the Living Room

Speaking of lilies, here’s an unexpected way to enjoy them up close, from our good customer Kathryn Hubler of Falls Church, Virginia:

“I thought you’d enjoy this photo of the gold-band lilies we received from you last year blooming in our living room. We’ve discovered we like to grow them in pots so we can enjoy their beautiful blooms and scent indoors. A pot of them is now a necessity, so we ordered fresh bulbs from you this year and will rotate the old ones into the garden.

“I grow the lilies outside, protecting the pot in the winter, and then when the first bud opens I bring them inside by our sunny, south facing window. I started doing this by accident one year when I brought the pot indoors to protect the flowers during a big rain storm. They last longer indoors, they’re never damaged by deer, slugs, or earwigs, and their fragrance is divine!”

Two of the most influential gardeners of the 20th century, Gertrude Jekyll and Vita Sackville-West, would probably approve of Kathryn’s technique. Both recommended growing fragrant lilies in pots and then moving them onto the terrace, near doorways, or alongside garden benches when they came into bloom, as they did in their own famous gardens.

Kathryn planted her lilies in the fall which gave them plenty of time to develop a good root system before they had to start growing above ground. Spring-planted lilies may be more of a challenge in pots, but we plan to try gold-band and ‘Uchida’ ourselves this spring, and we’ll let you know how they do.

For tips on growing all sorts of bulbs in containers, see our Bulbs in Pots page. Have fun, and send us your photos!


Madonna (Lily) Blows Up Our Facebook Page

Grown in gardens since 1600, Madonna lily is still a superstar – or at least our recent photo of it in bloom here with larkspur and poppies prompted so many likes (1,854) and shares (5,246) that almost 400,000 people have seen it so far. Yes, 400,000!

And that’s a global fan-base – appreciative comments were posted in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Finnish, Thai, and Filipino.

To make sure you see our next big Facebook hit, visit us at and click “Follow” under the “Liked” button near the top of our page. Thank you, and happy gardening!


To Protect Your Lilies, Plant Alliums

Our good customer Amy Reynolds of Saint Louis, Missouri, emailed us this helpful tip:

“Your lily bulbs are fabulous! I popped them in the ground immediately. To protect them from an abundant local rodent population, I’ve planted them (as I always do with lilies) with several allium companions. I’ve found that squirrels and chipmunks won’t excavate past the alliums to get to nearby lily bulbs while they’re dormant, and the rabbits won’t go near allium foliage come spring.”

To try this yourself, why not order a few of our fabulous lilies and alliums right now?


Stone Cold Survivors:
Tiger Lilies Thrive in Voyageurs National Park

Starting in the 1940s, Chicago businessman Jack Ellsworth and his wife Elsie built a monumental terraced garden next to their summer home on the shores of Lake Kabetogama, deep in the wilderness of what is now Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota.

At its peak in the early 1960s the garden included 62 rock-edged beds planted with thousands of lilies and other flowers and ornamented by 200 rock sculptures.

When the Ellsworths left Lake Kabetogama in 1965, the forest soon began reclaiming their garden. By 2001 when the National Park Service began implementing a preservation plan for it, decades of neglect, overgrowth, and zone-3 winters had taken their toll, and almost none of the garden’s original plants survived.

Photos from the 1960s, though, showed the garden ablaze with thousands of tiger lilies, and after we confirmed the identity of these incredibly tough lilies, the Park Service ordered 500 more to replant in the garden a couple of years ago.

Learn more here, and if you’re looking for a beautiful, historic lily for your own garden, consider planting some Lake-Kabetogama-tough tiger lilies this fall.


Can Regal Lilies Ease Arthritis Pain?

“Don’t sub any other flower,” Janet Weymiller wrote on her order for 25 regal lilies, “because my mom uses the petals in an arthritis remedy that really works.”

We’re not doctors, but we know that flowers have been used medicinally since ancient times, and Nature is constantly surprising us, so we asked Janet to tell us more.

“This remedy really does work!” she emailed us. “It doesn’t cure arthritis, of course, but it takes the pain away.

“My mother grows regal lilies in her garden in Iowa. When they bloom and the petals start to turn brown, she takes them off the plant and cuts them up into chunks. Then she puts them into a glass jar and covers them with rubbing alcohol. She lets them sit for one month, drains off the liquid, which turns brown, and rubs the liquid onto the sore arthritic spots.”

The remedy was suggested to Janet’s mom by a local doctor who learned about it from a patient from Russia. Although we’re intrigued and hope it works, please remember that we are NOT doctors and are NOT endorsing it in any way.


Tiger Lilies and Dahlias in
The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright

Beyond his iconic Fallingwater, few of us know anything about the gardens and landscapes that were always an important part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s vision.

Now Derek Fell, the renowned garden photographer, sets out to change all that in The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s a beautiful and informative book, and any gardener with a taste for art, history, or nature will find plenty to like in it.

Be sure to check out the photos of our ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlias and Wright’s favorite flower, tiger lilies, at Taliesin, Wright’s home and studio in rural Wisconsin.

tiger lilies at Taliesin

Tiger lilies, which are native to Japan and have been pictured in the country’s art for centuries, may have reminded Wright of the months he lived there during the construction of his landmark Imperial Hotel.

Dahlias figured in one of the saddest episodes of Wright’s life. While he was away from Taliesin, his live-in companion, Mamah Cheney, and her two young children were murdered in a fire set by an employee gone berserk. The next morning as Wright walked among the smoldering ruins with a Chicago Tribune reporter, “a crushed dahlia flower attracted his attention and seemed to raise his spirits. He picked up the flower and stirred the earth around its roots to give the plant a new lease on life.”

Later, Wright “gathered all the flowers he could salvage from the garden and made piles of dinner-plate dahlias, summer phlox, long-stemmed zinnias, and armloads of peppery-scented nasturtiums” to fill Mrs. Cheney’s casket.


The New York Times Praises Our Lilies

Anne Raver of The New York Times is always worth reading, and we especially liked her recent column “Striking Lilies, Ready for Revival.”

She quotes Scott extensively and writes that Old House Gardens “sold me my first ‘Black Beauty’ bulbs years ago, and they have bloomed from mid-July to early August without fail ever since, in ever-widening clumps.”

She also credits us with introducing her to ‘White Henryi’, “the classic trumpet lily” of ivory and amber, and praises another half-dozen of our heirlooms including the wild Lilium superbum whose “iridescent green throats . . . guide their pollinators – fritillaries and swallowtails – to the nectar inside.”

Read it all – and find out what Scott was talking about when he told her “Don’t print that!”


Summer Treat: Red Velvet (Lily) Cake Recipe

Red Velvet is wonderfully deep-colored lily, but I had always puzzled about its name because it didn’t match any red velvet I’d ever seen.

A friend set me straight, though, when she pointed out that it’s the color of old-fashioned, cocoa-rich red velvet cake.

To see for yourself, try the recipe from Matt’s Grandma Opal.

Topped with white frosting and blueberries, it’s the perfect treat for a Fourth of July picnic!