John Ruskin wrote, “Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance.”
Ruskin is correct about lilies being beautiful, but they have been used medicinally since the Romans used them to treat sores, burns and snakebite so some people at least have also thought them to be useful. White lilies were used in times past to treat the bite of a mad dog, and the bulbs were also crushed with honey and used to reduce wrinkles on the face.
The first lilies to bloom each summer are the open-faced Asiatics that are two to four feet tall. Then the elegant and fragrant Orientals are followed into bloom by the majestic Aurelian trumpets growing on plants that can reach six feet tall.
Almost all of these lilies are native to China. Hybridizers have crossed the Oriental lilies with the Trumpet lilies, and the resulting plants are known as Orienpets or O.T.’s for short. They combine the strong stems and height of the Aurelian trumpets with the large exotic flowers of the Orientals. The flowers of O. T’s have a strong substance and a stunning array of colors plus a perfume that is delightful without being overpowering.
Different varieties of lily bulbs can be planted to provide a succession of flowers from June through August in well-drained, sunny areas of a garden. Protect the buds from hungry deer by spraying with repellent.
Ruskin obviously did not predict that the modern urban deer would find lilies very useful as a food!
Note: Available from most nurseries and catalogs the bulbs are planted in the fall for bloom the following year. There are also specialty growers such as McClure and Zimmerman who advertise “Flower bulbs for the dedicated bulb enthusiast.”