Plant lillies in the fall
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
Jul 03, 2012 | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I had the most delightful conversation this past week with a reader of this column who I must tell you about. Rather than embarrass her, we won’t share her name but will tell you about her.

First, she is 93 years old, has been a widow for a long time, and still lives alone in her home out in the country in Trigg County. This sprightly lady does her own housework but did confess that sweeping her whole house makes her back hurt so has to rest a bit. She cooked every Sunday for her family until she was 85 and now just cooks Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners And it gets better and better.

She still drives her car but “not very far”, as she says. She mows her backyard with a push mower which she got from WalMart. She says the push mower is easier to turn. This busy lady has many tomato plants which are enclosed by tires which she fills with garbage and tops off with rich dirt. Now, that is a smart thing. She also has green beans, though she gets some from her son if she wants to can green beans since she doesn’t have that many. She told me that she uses Epsom Salts as I wrote about in my column. She had called me because part of her tomatoes have black spots on the end and some don’t and she wonders what makes them have that rotten end. I referred her to my friend at the hardware store who would know more than I about that problem.

We chatted on and I learned that she takes the local weekly paper and one daily so that she can keep up with what is happening. She has to wear a hearing aid in one ear which seemed to aggravate her. That seemed to be the only concession she makes to growing older. She did say that she takes a little nap after dinner.

Lest you think she sits around and watches the soaps, she has quilted two quilts this year and is always piecing on one. She says she is in excellent health and goes to the doctor regularly but doesn’t know why she does since he always tells her she is fine. In fact he told her that the push mower is great exercise. Her cholesterol is good but she takes a little medicine to ward off problems which might arise.

She and I shared some hearty laughs and I don’t know when I have talked to a more interesting lady. She thinks I would remember her if we met, since I know some of her family, and I hope that I do get to meet her soon.

Most gardeners are trying to save as many plants, trees and shrubs as they can during this extremely dry weather. However, it isn’t possible to save them all. My redbud in the front yard seems to be dying. The leaves are curling and some are falling. Since it has been growing for at least 15 years, I thought it would survive but maybe not. Again I urge you not to mow your grass during a drought. When you do mow, set your mower to three inches.

If you haven’t grown lilies in your perennial beds, you are missing out. You can buy good bulbs from $2.00 on up as high as you wish. Lilies will bloom for at least five years without any attention. But first, there are some plants called lilies which really are not true lilies such as lily-of-the-valley, African-lily, day lily, water lilies, etc.

True lilies come in two classes. First is the wonderful old tiger lily, the orange lily with brown spots. It is the one our grandmothers had in abundance in their yards. They are not good for a flower bed because they are too invasive. They propagate by little bulblets growing on the stem. They fall off and start new little tiger lilies.

The other kind of lily multiplies from the bulbs and are great to mix in any flower bed. They need moderate soil, good drainage and sunshine and they will bloom for a long time for you. Just remember that they like neutral soil, not too acid or too alkaline. No lily ever, ever likes manure. They need moisture on hot dry days just as any other garden plant. This type of lily includes the Easter lily, the Madonna, Regal, the Star and many others. The medium size bulbs give you just as good results as the very large bulb. Plant them about four to six inches deep (to the base of the bulb). The Madonna can be planted a little less deep. They look best planted in groupings of three, at least to this old gardener. They don’t like to be moved which is fine since they won’t need to be separated for at least five years.

When the subject of lilies comes up, I always like to remind anyone to leave those wild lilies alone which grow along the side of the road and in ditches. They are so invasive that you will sorely regret ever planting them in your garden.

Lilies should be planted by October so it’s not too late to order some. Don’t put it off too long if you want the best bulbs.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632. I am especially interested in hearing from seniors who still love to garden.
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