This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
These beautiful lilies are natives of this part of California, and a few remarks upon their natural habits may perhaps be of interest and service to those who cultivate them. The}' are as unlike as lilies can well be : yet it would be hard to say which most charms the lover of flowers, the stateliness of the one. or the beauty and fragrance of the other.
Humboldt's Lily, L. Humboldtii, is quite generally distributed through the upper part of the canons of San Bernardino Mountains, at an elevation of about 4000 feet above the sea. but where there are but light frosts or snows. It prefers the less steep sides of the canons, grow- I ing at a depth of eight or ten inches in the soil, which is mainly broken stones of all sizes, com-pacted with coarse decomposing granitic sand. But while found in the finest condition in such locations, this lily has such a power of adaptation that a bulb is sometimes seen protuding from a dry cliff into the crevices of which its roots only can penetrate, while others are found growing at the very edge of streams which continually saturate them with water. A partial shade develops the most perfect specimens, but those exposed to the full glare of the sun do better than those in deep shade.
In March, when the ground is wet and the sun warm, the bulbs send up their stout stems, and. growing with great rapidity, are in full flower by the first of July. The rains are now over for the Summer, and as their soil cannot retain moisture, they remain perfectly dry during their period of rest.
The bulbs are loose and open in structure, with long, broad scales, and often deformed in shape by the stones among which they grow. They differ greatly in size; a bulb of two ounces in weight will send up a stem eighteen inches high, bearing from two to six flowers, and from this they range through all sizes up to the grand plant ten feet high, with more than forty immense flowers, and a bulb weighing a pound and a half. In general appearance this lily somewhat resembles, but surpasses, L. superbum. The ground color of the petals is bright orange, with large blood-red spots and blotches.
In cultivation, this lily should have a well-drained and not over-rich soil, and not too much shade. A large bed which we treated in this way. presented hardly a failure, and when in bloom, was a beautiful sight.
Parry's Lily. L. Parryi, was discovered in 1876, by the distinguished botanist whose name it bears, and has been found only in this vicinity: from a competent knowledge of the country, we can say that it is exceedingly rare. Should there be a demand for it, the supply must be mainly from artificial propagation. The scales root with great readiness, but judging from the season's growth of a lot of bulblets, it will probably take a number of years to produce a blooming bulb.
These lillies grow in a locality higher and colder than L. Hurnboldtii, and where there is considerable snow and ice in Winter, and they would no doubt prove hardy at least as far North as New York. Occasionally one is found in rather dry soil on the banks of streams, but their favorite location is in tussocks of coarse grass growing in the rich soil of "cienegas," as small tracts of springy ground are here called. They send up a slender stem two to six feet high, with scattered leaves, producing in July from two to sixteen horizontal, lemon-yellow flowers,the interior sparsely sprinkled with purple dots. They 'are very fragrant, and of an exceedingly graceful appearance.
The bulbs are somewhat rhizomatous. with close, narrow, jointed scales, and are small, seldom exceeding two or three ounces in weight. A one-ounce bulb will produce a good flower. We have grown L. Parryi in ordinary garden soil with entire success. It ought to have considerable shade, and cannot be hurt by water. We believe it has not yet been offered for sale, but a few bulbs were distributed two years ago to botanical gardens and leading florists in the Eastern States, England and Australia, in all of which places it has, we understand, been flowered, and has excited a great deal of interest among those interested in rare flowers.