A slideshow of lilies once under evaluation at plantlilies.com resides on this page. To make a good garden lily it must have:
- Strong stems
- Lots of flowers
- Disease resistance
Oh boy do I have evaluation lilies for you to look at! These were all lilies hybridized in Canada by various Canadian breeders. The majority found on this farm are from the breeding work of Fred Fellner. There are also evaluation lilies from Dick Bazett, Darm Crook, Terry Willoughby as well as the late Alex Burnett and the late Russell Bennett. We had a few choice varieties from Jim Sullivan in Saskatoon too, among others.
In the old Photo Gallery I had thousands of photos (often multiples of the same variety) featuring many of the evaluation lilies found here on the farm over the years. I have yet to rebuild the evaluation albums but in the meantime, here is a small taste of what is currently under evaluation.
So, are you wondering what and why we evaluate? You may or may not be aware that not all lilies are created equal when it comes to growing in the garden. In the Netherlands, where the majority of lily hybridizing and growing of lily bulbs is carried out, the main purpose is for the cut flower trade rather than the garden. 'Amateur' and small scale hybridizers found all over the world tend to breed lilies for the garden in comparison. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying cut flower lily hybrids are not worthy of the garden I am just saying not all of them are.
Lilies grown for cut flowers don't need to be botrytis resistant for example, since they are not growing outdoors in all kinds of weather. Longevity or 'lots of flowers' are not really a concern for cut flower breeders either. The focus for cut flowers seems to be on producing large flowers rather than plenty of them on a single stem. When I say longevity, I am talking about something that you plant and year after year it comes back again. Typically in the cut flower trade, lily bulbs are grown to the flowering stage then they are cut close to the soil level. This affects their ability to gather energy for the following year. If you have ever had hail strip your lilies of all leaves or pulverize them into nothing, then you know that the next year they did not come back nearly as vigorous or robust as the previous year. The lack of foliage discourages photosynthesis which is a must for lily bulbs in order to store energy in the bulb. Since this is of no importance to the cut flower trade (bulbs are trashed after stems are cut) many of the varieties bred for the cut flower trade fizzle out in the garden after a few short years.
For the garden, we all want lilies to last years and years right? I evaluate at LEAST 5 years, and quite often up to 10 years before making the decision to register or introduce a lily. Good lily breeders wait that long too. It really does take that long to observe how it performs under ALL kinds of weather and conditions.
There is certainly a lot more I look for in evaluating a lily, including the flower bud count (more is better) but now you have an idea of what I mean when I write or say 'evaluation lilies'.