Ornamental and edible gardening adventures.

Show Features Best Blooms of New England Lily Society

Carbonero Oriental Lily at the New England Lily Society Show Saturday, July 11 at the Tower Hill Botanic Garden. 

A poster on display describing the parts of
the genus Lilium.
BOYLSTON, Mass. - One vase filled with lily blossoms - unblemished and in a vibrant color - is an impressive feat for any gardener.

For members of the New England Lily Society, those singular efforts were combined to present a room full of impeccable lily blossoms for judging at the 56th annual New England Lily Show held Saturday and Sunday at Tower Hill Botanic Garden.

The show highlighted the genus Lilium, which includes Asiatic, Trumpet Lily, Oriental, Orienpet, Longiflorum and Canadense varieties.* It was a celebration of all shapes, sizes and colors the lily family had to offer.

What makes this room so special? How are these flowers different than others grown in a garden? The main obstacle to beautiful blooms and healthy plants would be the scarlet lily leaf beetle, which has an insatiable appetite for the lily plant. It can be found in all New England states, New York and even Canada. The larvae of this pest will eat leaves, buds, flowers and stems and are vile: as they destroy a beautiful genus of flowers, they pile their waste on top of themselves, forming a black shied of poop for protection.

Click to view larger.
Ever since the scarlet lily leaf beetle entered my garden in 2010, I began to grow fewer lilies as I struggled with controlling the pest. After losing a handful of plants to the beetles' voracious appetites, now I do not grow any. I have gardener friends who will dedicate the time necessary to inspect their plants, remove eggs, larvae and the beetles, and as a result grow beautiful lilies in their gardens. While I enjoy lilies, I can't invest the time into the maintenance and upkeep of keeping these pests off my plants. So, I go without.

With a garden that has an absence of lily blooms (except for my beloved daylilies), it was a real delight to see a room filled with the best blossoms New England Lily Society members had to offer. While for five years I have remained immune to lily lust, there was one variety in particular I kept returning to photograph throughout my time at the show: Carbonero. This oriental lily in deep raspberry red resembled silk petals that I was magnetically drawn to. (I've even reconsidered growing lilies due to its beauty. Perhaps it's a good thing that I can't find a U.S. retailer that sells the bulbs online ... yet.) In fact, the Ernie Stokes First President Award for Best Lily in Show was awarded to a Carbonero plant. The pink ribbon paired nicely with the deep red flowers.

Click to view larger.
The lilies were judged according to the North American Lily Society Scale: 30 points for condition; 20 points for vigor; 20 points for placement; 10 points for substance of flower; 10 points for form of flower; and 10 points for color of flower. Only true lilies (those with scaly bulbs) could be entered and they must be free of obvious defects and diseases.

What was interesting was that the rules for judging instructed entrants to leave the anthers on the lily blooms, and the entries would be penalized if they were removed. (Typically the anthers are removed from display lilies to cut down on the mess the pollen can make.) To be eligible for judging, the stem must have one bloom open and had to be grown outside and without protection.

Surprisingly, the lily fragrance was not overpowering, despite so many being grouped together in one room. In addition to the lilies for judging, flower bouquets were also on display for visitors, including classical and Ikebana styles of flower arranging.

The hard work involved in caring for lilies paid off - there were several first place ribbons among the second and third recipients. For photos, see below.

* Links to specific lily varieties are provided for further reading and specific examples of the varieties named. 

This lily plant took home the Best in Show pink ribbon.

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  1. Please indicate the YEAR not just the month and day. Thank you so much and thank you for the beautiful photos & the report. Am trying to figure out if the show was on for 2021 !!


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