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Sure Signs of Spring

By Karl Gercens, on April 21, 2011

Lilium ‘Nellie White’. Lilium ‘Nellie White’.

Planting hundreds of lilies. Planting hundreds of lilies.

Easter lilies  are a symbol of springtime and new life in the garden.  The plant is originally native to the southern islands of Japan.  Lilium longiflorum ‘Nellie White’ is the Easter lily cultivar of choice grown for potted plant use in North America.  The bulbs are primarily produced along the narrow coastal strip of northern California and Oregon. The plants you see on display in the Conservatory were grown in Longwood’s greenhouses.  This is no simple task.

Temperatures need to be measured daily and the pots are rotated every week to ensure a perfectly straight plant.  The bulbs are potted up as early as the first week in December giving them a little more than four months to grow. This is an intense four months as every step of the way is critical to having the Easter lilies bloom at the correct date.  Our grower knows that as soon as she sees visible buds, the plant is just 28 days from flowering!

Easter lily field production. Easter lily field production.

Delphinium ‘Blue Bird’. Delphinium ‘Blue Bird’.

In the Conservatory, with our cool temperatures, we can expect our flowers to last as long as two weeks per bulb.  We often times will mix our Easter lilies with other spring flowering plants like columbine, freesia, sweet broom and Marguerite daisy.

The Easter holiday falls during Longwood’s season of Spring Blooms, April 2 to May 27.  The weather can still be a little brisk outside, but step through the front door of the Conservatory and you can leave behind a gray, gloomy day.  The colors in the Orangery are so vibrant this time of year! There are sweeps of 4-foot Delphinium, hundreds of yellow daises, Argyranthemum ‘Sunlight’ or Euryops pectinatus. Who doesn’t like the cheerful faces of Viola x wittrockiana 'Blue for You' and the unusual Echium candicans 'Select Blue'.  Another plant whose presence  is just as welcome in the early spring is…the lawn!  Nearly 1,000 square feet of bright green lawn!  What is better than the smell of freshly cut grass (come on a Tuesday and you might spot a volunteer in action!)?

Tulips in bloom outdoors. Tulips in bloom outdoors.

If the lawn inside isn’t enough for you, outdoors we have a stunning display of over 200,000 tulips, daffodils and hyacinths will be at peak bloom just in time for our big Easter weekend. Happy happy spring to you!

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