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A Tribute To Lilies

I think of “Lily Sweet Lily” as a love song and tribute to garden lilies. The lyrics might also suggest it’s Romeo pouring out his heart to Juliet, or a serenade to a beautiful woman whose name is Lily. Here are some of the words:

Loveable as Romeo,

Prince Charming of the town, Lily you are my Juliet, You never cast me a frown. Not just a flower you’re lily, Once a year you come around, Gathering people to yourself, Without making a sound. There’s a lily for everyone, And always room for one more, Lily let me take care of you, Such beauty I can’t ignore. Lily sweet Lily I sing this way, To let you know it’s true,

Life has been made much happier, Since I first met up with you.


A few years ago, the University of Saskatchewan was recipient of a very special centenary Asiatic lily bearing both the learning institution’s name and colours. Donna Hay, plant sciences research technician and part-time lily breeder, presented the U of S with Lilium “University of Saskatchewan” to commemorate its centennial.

This hardy upfacing lily grows 2-1/2 feet high and flowers appear in July. White petals have a central seam of deep blush gold, spotted with ginger-coloured speckles and lime-green basins at the bottom that make a very strong statement. During the summer of 2007, it graced campus flower beds and was planted out in front of the College Building in Saskatoon. “University of Saskatchewan” lily bulbs are available this year from:

Blue Ridge Gardens,

Lloydminster, Sask. S9V 1K6. Phone (306) 387-6743.

Visit or

email: [email protected] Red Lily (Lilium philadelphicum) is the floral emblem of Saskatchewan. Blooming-size plants are from three to four years old and produce quite striking orange lilies in June. In their natural environment, red lilies can range in height between 20 cm (eight inches) to 50 cm (20 inches), depending on competition from other plants. Leave them be in the wild to help ensure their numbers remain strong. XL plugs, each containing a two-to three-year-old bulb are available in four-packs or individual pots for home garden naturalizing and can be ordered for May shipment from:

Prairie Originals, Selkirk, Man. R1A 2A8.


Phone 1-866-296-0928.


… situated just a few kilometres south of Neepawa, Manitoba is a lily-lovers’ paradise. It was here that the late Barrie Strohman, known as the Lily King began his hobby of growing and hybridizing lilies more than 30 years ago.

Barrie won numerous awards and medals during his gardening years. The highlight was the prestigious “Slate McDaniels Award” presented to Barrie in recognition for his work with lilies by Dr. Wilbert Ronald on behalf of the North American Lily Society.

In 1995 his son Nigel Strohman began the commercial operation. Today, The Lily Nook ships bulbs across Canada and throughout the world both spring and fall. Its large selection includes Asiatic lilies, Martagons, Trumpets, Orientals, Interdivisional Hybrids and species lilies, providing exotic blossoms for those who have discovered the beauty, excitement and pleasure that lilies can bring. For more information write: The Lily Nook, Box 846, Neepawa, Man. R0J 1H0; or visit www.lily

Just a littler closer. The Singing Gardener couldn’t resist bending while serenading the beauty of dozens of lilies with his tribute song: “Lily Sweet Lily.” Mona Lisa, Little Joy, Mr. Ed, Stargazer, Night Lights; Typhoon, Razzle Dazzle, Pacific Rim; Canadian Sunrise, Prairie Sunset, Dreamland; Regal, Money Maker, My Sweet, Kristin.


Well you certainly won’t be happy should you ever have to deal with lily leaf beetles (Lilioceris lilii). Those who live in an area where these destructive pests have already made inroads will know what I’m talking about. They have no known predators.

Adult beetles are solid red or scarlet on top with black head, black antennae and black legs. They can crawl or fly about from one lily plant or lily bed to another. Their larvae… well UGH… they’re especially ugly, repulsive looking and capable of devastating entire lily plants from leaves and stems to buds and flowers in no time flat. The downright awful appearance of the grubs is worsened by carrying black excrement on their backs.

Monitor your lily plants frequently — every day and several times a day, starting in early spring as soon as growth appears. Crush all adult lily beetles, or hand pick and dump them in soapy or oily water. Check undersides of leaves for egg clusters and squish them all — the same as you’d do with potato bugs and their eggs. Controls such as Neem oil, rotenone powder or rose and flower spray can be used as a support if needed, but follow label directions carefully.

In fall before freeze-up, dust some rotenone powder on soil around each lily plant, then work it into the top three or four inches and wet it down. Rotenone is among the oldest botanical insecticides and is extracted from the roots of Asian derris plants. Caution: This insecticide is highly toxic to fish, bees and moderately so for mammals, but does break down quickly — usually within 24 to 48 hours. It is also irritating to the respiratory tract. Keep children and pets away and avoid using when beneficial insects are present.


… is a vegetable oil, pressed from the fruits and seeds of the evergreen Neem trees of India, where the tree is variously known as “Sacred Tree,” “Heal All,” “Nature’s Drugstore,” “Village Pharmacy” and “Panacea for all diseases.”

Neem oil is used commercially for organic farming and in medicines.

Usually, about one ounce is mixed into four litres of water, but let label instructions be your guide. It has low toxicity for mammals, but do avoid spraying when beneficial insects are present. You can add a teaspoonful of gentle liquid soap such as Castile to prevent the oil from separating in water. It’s effective on multiple fronts and stops pests such as leaf-chewing beetles and caterpillars from feeding and going through metamorphosis. There’s no guarantee that either rotenone or Neem oil spray will work 100 per cent in all situations. Results are based on historical uses and can vary.


In the past, I mentioned stagger planting bush beans among potatoes to reduce the incidence of potato bugs. Personally, I feel it’s worth a try growing beans in and among your lilies too and see whether lily leaf beetles are reduced. Two recommended varieties in particular are Strike, a continuous set, round stringless green bean, available from McFayden Seeds in Brandon, Man., and Provider, a robust early green bean listed by Terra Edibles, Foxboro, Ont.,


… is still the early bird for short-season and high-north growing regions of our nation from the Yukon and Dawson Creek to Grande Prairie; from Prince Albert to Thompson and Yellowknife to Newfoundland. Every tomato grower in the far northern reaches of this great country who thought growing a ripe tomato was near impossible ought to try Latah. This variety is for southerners too.

Where blight is a common problem, fruit set with Latah is early enough to deliver two-to three-inch flavourful fruits before any devastation sets in. It’s Greg Wingate’s signature tomato. Request a copy of his brochure, listing short-season items from sweet potatoes and cukes to wonderberry and other distinctive tomatoes. Write to: Mapple Farm, 129 Beech Hill Road, Weldon, N.B. E4H 4N5; email [email protected] or visit

ThisisTedMeseytontheSingingGardener andGrow-ItPoetfromPortagelaPrairie, Man.Whatawaytoendthiscolumn! HummingalongtoLilySweetLilywitha packetofdeer-resistantwildflowerseedsin mypocketandthoughtsofahomemadedeer-repellent recipethatIshallshareinmynext column.ThanksforreadingGrainews.My emailaddressis [email protected]

About the author


Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.



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