Lilies: Lost Forever?

From America’s Expert Source for Heirloom Flower Bulbs
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L. pardalinum, LEOPARD LILY, 1848

This is the only native California lily that thrives anywhere it’s not too hot. With brilliant orange-red petals that are splashed with gold and leopard-spotted, it was first brought into gardens in the Gold Rush era. In 1939 expert George Slate praised it as “not particular as to soil, easily established, handsome and graceful.” 4-6 feet, zones 5a-7b(9bWC), from Holland. Last offered in 2014. Unfortunately we lost our grower and haven’t found another who offers authentic stock.

L. martagon, MARTAGON LILY, 1568

Favorites for centuries, these wild European “mountain lilies” were crowded aside in the 1800s by flashier lilies arriving from Asia. But their charms endure, and today they’re making a big comeback. Blooming in earliest summer with dainty, lavender-pink, turk’s-cap flowers, they’re extra cold-hardy but not always easy to please. Give them a cool spot, humusy soil, filtered sun – and patience. 3-4 feet, zones 3a-7a(8bWC), from Holland. Last offered in 2017. If you’d like to be notified the next time we offer this treasure, sign up for an email alert.


Subtle but majestic, ‘Mrs. R. O. Backhouse’ produces an impressive pyramid of up to 30 fuzzy pink buds that open to small, martagon-like blossoms, each a soft amber and cream blushed with pink and lightly dotted with maroon. It’s happiest in very light shade, never needs staking, and is much easier and more vigorous than its wild parents, L. martagon and L. hansonii. 4-5 feet, zones 4a-7b(9bWC), from Holland. Last offered in 2013. Unfortunately we lost our grower and haven’t found another who offers authentic stock.

L. bulbiferum croceum, ORANGE OR FIRE LILY, 1629

“The pride of many a cottage garden,” this classic “multiplies rapidly and lasts well even in completely neglected gardens” (Complete Book of Lilies, 1961). A European wildflower, it appeared in the earliest herbals, was painted by the Dutch masters, and was offered in U.S. catalogs by 1830. In Germany it’s known as “fire lily,” and in Northern Ireland its rich orange color has made it a special favorite. Up-facing, cupped, mid-summer flowers. 3-4’, zones 4a-7b(9bWC), Holland. Last offered in 2003. We lost our grower and haven’t found another who offers authentic stock of this widely mis-labeled lily.

L. canadense var. coccineum/rubrum, RED MEADOW LILY, 1629

Rare and prized, the red form of our native “spotted Canada martagon” is one of the most spectacular and graceful wild lilies, its nodding bells ranging in color from brick red to almost scarlet. Best in moist, acid soils and filtered sun, it’s highly sought-after by eager collectors. 4-5’, zones 5a-7b(9bWC). Superb Oregon-grown bulbs! Last offered in 2003. Unfortunately our grower passed away and we haven’t been able to locate another source.

L. speciosum rubrum, RUBRUM LILY, 1830

Is this what heaven smells like? It’s my favorite floral fragrance — lush, complex, and never too much. ‘Rubrum’ is achingly beautiful, too, with pink and white petals “all rugged with rubies and garnets, and sparkling with crystal points,” to quote the RHS’s John Lindley soon after it arrived from Japan. My wife Jane and I liked it so much we included it in our wedding 30 happy years ago. Wonderfully late blooming, 4-5 feet, zones 5a-7b(9bWC), from Holland. Last offered in 2012. ‘Rubrum’ is now commercially extinct in the Netherlands, and bulbs offered by mainstream sources are L. speciosum ‘Uchida’.


Magnificently tough and healthy, this statuesque beauty is topped by big, extra-fragrant, wide open, bell-like flowers with long, lovely petals that curl back dramatically from a heart full of sunshine. Virus-free, seed-grown bulbs. Trumpet, 5-6 feet, mid-to-late summer, zones 5a-8b(10bWC), from Oregon. Last offered in 2004. We lost our grower and haven’t found another who offers authentic stock.

L. speciosum album, SPECIOSUM ALBUM, 1830

‘Casa Blanca’ is a fine lily, but we like this wild ancestor of it even better. Exquisitely fragrant, its flowers are more graceful, less huge, with showier, jade-green nectaries that enhance its sparkling whiteness. Like L. speciosum rubrum it’s a form of the variable “Japan lily” which “commanded extravagant prices” (Breck, 1851) when it was first imported and became one of the Victorian era’s most popular flowers. Its late bloom extends the lily season. 4-5 feet, zones 5a-7b(9WC), from Holland. Last offered in 2012. ‘speciosum album’ is now commercially extinct in the Netherlands.

L. speciosum rubrum UCHIDA, 1960

Because it’s harvested so late, we’re now delivering this lily in spring only. You’ll find it in our Spring Diverse bulbs.

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