THE TRUMPET LILIES are in bud, and even if they, didn't bloom (though I assume they will, in June) I have had my money's worth. Few things are more satisfactory to a gardener than planting lily bulbs in November.
Unlike tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and so on, lily bulbs are fragile and must be handled carefully. If they are bruised, I always suspect one of several roots will set in, and if the roots are damaged (bulbs arrive, or should, with plump roots attached) I feel the planat is weakened, though I do not know that to be the case. The reason many people do not grwo more lilies than they do , is simply that they are not ready with a place for them, and do not order them from growers for fall delivery.
To begin with, I would dig out a bed, perhaps only four by eight feet, about 18 inches deep. One way or another I would raise it a foot above the surrounding land, and if I had a choice, it would be on a slope.
The addition of leaf mould, peat, sand or grit, would be desirable, and if you have never tried raising the level of even a small bed a few inches, you will not believe how much additional dirt it takes.
People who have "lily soils" just dig, a how and plop the bulb in, in the fall, and it is true that many of the trumpet hybrids and the regal lily (lilium regale) will often flourish without any special preparation.
My own experience - from which I rarely learn - is that even the robust trumpets dislike compacted soil, and since most of us garden on what I call living bricks (clay that is not quite waterproof and airtight) the soil compacts quickly, even if well dug before bulbs are planted.
I am sure this is why so many gardeners report splendid success a year or two, then find their lilies dwindling away. Once I grew an assortment of hybrid trumpets on what a friend called my Indian mounds - parallel ridges 18 inches high. The soil was heavy, and after two years even these ridges compacted to the point the lilies were outraged. A friend who much better soil grew huge clumps from offsets from my bulbs, but may own never did so well.
Plenty of leaf mould and sand, I am convicted, is the answer, and if I could not manage to arrange a porous leafy soil for the bulbs, then I would move them every two years to a newly dug site.
Everybody knows lilies dislike being dug up and moved when they are flourishing. But I know what happens to lilies with me when the soil is heavy.
If it's deeply dug they accept it, but after the second year it is too dense and tight for them.
Ideally, then, we should make a bed of soil with enough material to lighten the soil that they will grow contentedly for five years or more.
I mention this because the summer is an excellent time to do all of it, letting it sit until fall planting time.
Now the trumpet lilies have blooms shaped like funnerls or trumpets. They are mainly either white or yellow. If you like them, you can also get them in a fuchsia color (as their admirers call it) which is somewhat lighter than beer liver.
The commonest trumpet lily is the regal lily, which comes from the Sino-Tibetan frontier country where it grows amid grass in windswept treeless well-drained valleys and slopes. It was introduced to cultivation by the late E.H. Wilson, and it is very beautiful.
The inside of the flower is waxy. White overlaid down in the throat by a brilliant canary color. The outside ribs of the petals are madder or fuchsia color, and sometimes this suffeses most of the exterior.
The general effect in the garden is a cluster of white trumpets. The leaves of this lily are slender and neatly disposed all around the stem, giving a more feathery effect than the follage of most lilies.
The blooms radiate from the top of the stem, very like a crown, and sometimes there are so many they look crowded.
Lily fanciers naturally and rightly object to the flowers jammed up against each other, where the outline of the individual flower is obscured.
I am not sure, however, that any other trumpet lily has quite the same beauty, and if the regals are grown in large clumps, so that the whorls of flowers on the various stalks are borne at different heights, the effect is to my mind quite wonderful.
This lily, like the other trumpets, is easy to grow from seed, but it takes four years or so to get them up to a good size, though they may have one bloom to be the stem within two years of sowing. Raising them from seed meand the tiny young seedlings must be prevented from dampling off and - much worse than that - being overwhelmed by seedling weeds. I would use sterilized soil, and do the sowing on a scale large enough to keep my interest up during the months before they bloomed.
The hybrid trumpets derive from several wild lilies other than L. regale. In general their flowers are borne in pyramidal fashion at the tops of the stalks, and the placement of the flowers is less congested than in the wild regal.
A good one that grows about 6 feet high in ordinary gardens with ordinary care is called 'Black Dragon,' a white lily with dark wine ribs, and minus the brilliant yellow throat of the regals. The stalk itself is dark red, and the foliage is a darker green than most lilies of this type and the blooms are enormous.
Apart from this variety, there is a seed-raised strain of the same name ('Black Dragon Strain') which is excellent. Once I grew 'Black Dragon' and 'Black Dragon Strain' together, and now I would buy the strain which is cheaper and virtually the same.
All these trumpet lilies are fragrant, though they do not smell all the same. They are somewhat overpowering, but to me they all smell better than the auratums and speciosums which are intoxicatingly sweet on the surface but after a few hours may seem grossly rank.
Of the yellow trumpets, I suppose the standard now is the strain called 'Golden Splendor.' These are deep yellow, usually with reddish ribs. I go quite berserk over them. They are about shoulder height usually.
A good white, minus the dark ribs and yellow throat, but rather white all over is the strain called 'Sentinel,'
There are many variations, many strains and many individual varieties of these white or yellow trumpet lilies, but the ones I have mentioned are the ones I have now settled down with, though there are many I have never grown, Most gardeners will find any of the 'Olympic Hybirds' fine - these are of mixed parentage and vary a good bit in details of color and shape.
They should not be cut for the house because they are needed in the garden. I usually cut a few and feel awful about it. Gardeners rich in space or time or money can of course grow hundreds, though I do not envy them as much as I used to.