Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Wishes

Saturday, March 22, 2008

It's very close to Easter here at Vermont Flower Farm. I remember there was a time when virtually everyone I knew celebrated Easter. Times have changed and some who did, no longer do, and some people I know are of other faiths while some have no interest in any religion at all.

I always have had an Easter Lily or two or three and have always enjoyed them. What we know of as an Easter Lily is really a longiflorum and not at all like Madonna lilies associated with a far different part of the world in a much earlier time. This year I don't have any Easter lilies because I couldn't find any that looked good enough to purchase. After four stores, each with lilies that had botrytis and had been over fertilized, I was about to give up. There's only one greenhouse that produces them up this way and it's still 65 miles away towards Burlington. I knew they would have very good lilies but the trip didn't make any sense. I tried one last store and those lilies looked as if they had been frozen. I was disappointed and settled for a nice azalea just starting to open and some tulips. Gail was quite pleased but still wanted a full explanation of why we were going to be lilyless.

Several years back I bought Easter lilies from a box store. They looked exceptional and they were. When I got them home I found out they had some pretty hungry red ants inside but the ants didn't seem to bother us and the plants were well enjoyed. Lilies are a very good investment and reward you for a long time if you purchase them when they are just starting to open.

This Easter presented a real challenge for growers and that's probably part of the problem with all the lilies I looked at. Balancing light and fertilizer is very tricky. Growers now days use growth regulators to compensate for the lack of sun when the bulbs are first planted --say 80 days ago, and the increasing sunlight each day since planting. The number of variables involved is where the challenge comes in and just anyone can't figure this out. This year Easter is very early compared to other years which means the bulbs were planted and grew under artificial light during much of their early start.

A couple alternatives to consider if you can't find a nice longiflorum is a potted lily or several stems of lilies of either Orientals, Asiatics, or the crosses of those two. Oriental lilies are the nice showy and fragrant lilies while Asiatic lilies come in a large variety of colors, hold up well and are fragrance free which is something to consider if you're having company with possible allergies. The various longiflorum hybrids are also readily available as cut flowers and are very impressive.

In early August I always think of Easter because the nice trumpet lilies begin to bloom here including Regale. This one always gives great pleasure with it's burgundy backing and pure white petals. Just looking at this picture makes me wish I had a few pots going right now.

Finally, I have grown to love Eucharis grandiflorum, the Amazon lily pictured at the top of the page. Ours are just finishing blooming again and probably would have been on target for mid April if I hadn't moved the pots into my office when we had some company over a few weeks back. They are not as easy to find any more but you can track them down on the Internet.

With a twitch of a bunny's nose, Easter will be here. Regardless of your belief, I know that you probably enjoy plants. I hope these thoughts have been helpful as you purchase and grow plants for Easter in years to come. In the meantime, enjoy time with family and friends and give some time to think about the origin of Easter.

Easter wishes from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the moon is just now rising above the fir balsams and tamaracks and the wind I thought had stopped, reminds us again that cold days will remain for some time longer.

George Africa
The Vermont Gardener