Press-Republican

Gast

March 24, 2013

The lily of the season

Easter season is upon us. It’s a time of joy and celebration, of religious significance, and of the promise of spring and the summer months ahead.

Perhaps the most widely shared symbol is the Easter lily, Lilium longiflorum, with its magnificent white flowers and fragrance.

It is said that lilies were found growing in the garden of Gethsemane, and that lovely white lilies grew where Jesus’s blood, sweat and tears fell in the hours before his death. For Easter Sunday, many churches cover their altars with lilies to commemorate the Resurrection and remember loved ones who have passed away.

Easter lilies are the fourth largest crop in wholesale value in the U.S. potted-plant market. I find that remarkable when you consider they are sold for only two or three weeks each year. Poinsettias, mums and azaleas rank first, second and third. Widely grown Easter lily cultivars include Ace, Croft and the Estate variety, which can grow to be three feet tall. Nellie White, a popular cultivar that produces large trumpet-like flowers, was created by lily grower James White, who named the hybrid after his wife.

Easter lilies are native to the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan and, prior to World War II, when commercial production shifted to the United States, the vast majority of potted Easter lily bulbs sold in the United States were imported from Japan. Today, the superior quality of U.S. bulbs is recognized around the world.

Bermuda was a center for production of Easter lilies from the 1850s until 1898, when a virus and nematode infestation wiped out the industry. In 1919, Louis Houghton brought the first hybrid Bermuda bulbs to the United States. They were planted along Oregon’s southern seacoast.

Today, almost all the bulbs grown for the potted Easter lily market are produced on just 10 farms along the California-Oregon border. Every year, from late September through early October, these growers harvest roughly 12 million bulbs, which they ship to commercial greenhouses. The bulbs are then planted in pots and “forced” indoors to flower just in time for Easter.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Gast
  • Gast_Richard.jpg Maple sugaring season is underway

    Climate change has generally pushed back the season, but this year has been an exception, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    April 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Seed-starting workshop offered

    Cooperative Extension offers everything you will need to start a successful garden from scratch, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    March 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Addiction to energy has costs

    Damage to environment, climate change just two of the problems caused by runaway energy consumption, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    March 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Timber management has many benefits

    The use of applicable timber-management practices can help deer survive the winter, according to columnist Richard Gast

    February 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Flower life can be extended

    That Valentine bouquet doesn't have to be a fleeting memory, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    February 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Learn to deal with hypothermia, frostbite

    Prevention is best, but knowing how to treat injuries is also critical this time of year, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    January 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Maple School to be held

    Franklin County event will features classes on a variety of topics, maple equipment sales and more, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    January 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Kisses under mistletoe have ancient origins

    While it is unclear exactly which tradition started the Christmas practice, mistletoe has long held a place in ancient lore, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    December 29, 2013 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Moose returning to New York

    While other areas have experienced declines, the lack of certain parasites has helped boost local populations, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    December 15, 2013 1 Photo

  • Gast_Richard.jpg Native horticulturalist rescued Pilgrims

    Colony may not have survived without the expertise of a key Native American ally, according to columnist Richard Gast.

    December 1, 2013 1 Photo