Shut Up and Dig

Are Our Obsessions Becoming America’s Obsessions?

We post a lot about lilies here on Garden Rant, as our puzzled partner Susan Harris has pointed out numerous times, mainly because Elizabeth and I appear to be interested in little else. They are one of the truly great plants for Northern urban gardens, with their lush look, sophisticated shapes, unbelievable scent in close quarters, long season, and cold-hardiness.

Img_1748_3Today, Anne Raver is covering lilies in desultory fashion for the New York Times, but not by any means doing them justice, I say with the fastidiousness of the obsessive. She talks about Turk’s Cap lilies as if they are a species, when she really ought to explain to the uninitiated that Turk’s Cap is a shape–and a common name–shared by different lilies. Notice also the mislabeled photo in the Times piece. ‘Black Beauty,’ my foot. That looks like lilium superbum to me.

And what can you say about a garden writer who doesn’t like the perfume of Oriental lilies? Maybe not a lily person? Maybe not a scent person at all? Just for the sake of accuracy, ‘Casa Blanca’ does not smell like jasmine or cotton candy. It smells like really great sex on a tropical island.

People, people, we’re talking about the queens of the garden here! Let’s at least try to be precise.

Posted by on August 14, 2008 at 10:00 am, in the category Shut Up and Dig.
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15 responses to “Are Our Obsessions Becoming America’s Obsessions?”

  1. susan harris says:

    Well, Michele, since you mentioned a topic even more interesting that lilies, what tropical island DO you recommend for really great sex?

  2. Michele Owens says:

    God, how would I know? I’m leading the leisure-free life.

    But I’m sure that’s what I smell.

  3. jenn says:

    Stargazer, and all lilies that smell like stargazer, stink like hell itself. Not a pretty smell, not an attractive odor, a smell-it-and-run-as-if-from-carrion-stench.

    And yes, I’ma starting something.

    I love the scent of hostas, pheasent’s eye daffs make me swoon… lilies?

    Their scent is coarse and abrasive. Yuck.

  4. Michele Owens says:

    Wow, I used to have a huge stand of Stargazers. I thought they smelled heavenly.

    Maybe I’ve got an unsubtle nose.

  5. Right, but *which* tropical island, and sex with whom? I mean, if we’re going to be precise. . . .

  6. Michele Owens says:

    Dear Mr. Subjunctive, even garrulous garden bloggers keep some things private.

  7. luise h. says:

    Well Michele,my Nose must be all wrong too.I planted Stargazer Lilies,on purpose,to the side of the Patio so I could enjoy their Scent.On the other,more shady side, Nicotiana because I like how they smell too.Ah,the World would be soo boring if we all had the same Taste.

  8. Kim says:

    I’ll have you know I have a very refined nose (or at least sensitive). What stinks is Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds, which an unnamed family member drenches herself in. Smells like a chemical spill. What smells heavenly are oriental lilies. I have only one Stargazer, so maybe it’s the others that smell so good. Sorbonne is still blooming and I stand outside the front door to drink it in. Do I justlove them because Garden Man does, or do I love them for themselves? Who cares? And I’m with Susan, WHICH island? I’m ready to book flights . . . . .

  9. eliz says:

    There are huge differences between the smells of the various lily types. Casa Blanca has a lovely vanilla smell (a tropical plant, so the island analogy works). Stargazers are stronger; they are not my favorite but I think they smell fine. The Sorbonne and Tom Pouce have milder scents. I truly love the trumpets—at night. The speciosum rubrum have a very mild spicy scent.

    And so on.

  10. Old Kim says:

    After reading this I stepped out my back door to sniff Stargazer a couple feet away. I had to get close to appreciate the smell. I liked it’s scent. As my husband was passing by I asked him what he thought. It’s scent reminded him of baby powder or some Johnson & Johnson air freshener. Yuck.
    He said we all smell things different and he loves the way I smell.
    Don’t go wearing fancy clothes next to lilies. They stain.
    A farmer’s market customer gave a dry cleaning bill to the lily grower who didn’t pick off the stamens.

  11. Lisa - St. Marys, Ontario says:

    I also don’t like the smell of Orientals. At weddings I have to move the centrepieces because I can’t breathe. It seems excessive, but unfortunately true. I do have some Orientals, but I won’t cut them and bring them in the house, and when I’m cutting the grass on the (gasp) riding lawn mower I try to figure out what the smell is that I’m trying to get away from, and it is usually an Oriental. Yup, I’ll take the smell of a two stroke engine over them.

  12. I LOVE the Oriental and trumpet lily scents! It’s not something I would want to smell through the winter months–like Michele said, more appropriate for good sex on a tropical island–but it’s luscious in the summer. Particularly when the nights are cooler and the wind obligingly wafts little tastes of it up to my bedroom window.

    What I despise are the carnation and dianthus scents. Now THOSE smell like funeral home to me. And some roses smell good, and others smell like grandmas drenched in too much perfume.

  13. I’d always taken it for granted that different lilies have different scents, though some of you are way ahead of me when it comes to categorizing them. I confess I’m one of those who likes almost all lilies but Orientals, but after this description of Casa Blanca, I’m tempted to try…

    Hesitant as I am to disagree with a Garden Authority, that picture could be ‘Black Beauty’. I’ve grown it, and it does I believe have superbum chlorophyll in it.

    Does this mean lilies are coming back into style? About time! It’s been over 50 years since they’ve been big in this country.

  14. Jim - Chicago lily fanatic! says:

    Hi Michele,

    Just a point of clarification. The lily photo above is most likely ‘Scheherazade’, a very popular and indestructible Orienpet lily. Definitely not ‘Black Beauty’, nor L. superbum (did you perhaps mean L. speciosum?). Lilium speciosum is one of the parents of L. ‘Black Beauty’, which in turn is a parent of ‘Scheherazade’, so confusion is possible until you’ve grown all of these lilies (which I do!).

  15. Jim - Chicago lily fanatic! says:

    A follow-up to my posting above. I should have looked at Ms. Raver’s article before I commented. The second photograph accompanying her article is most definitely Lilium ‘Black Beauty’. The photograph at the top of this blog was not in the NY Times article that I can see. Hopefully this now clarifies any and all confusions of who is who in all the images!

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