Since I spend much of my time marketing and promoting the genus Lilium, I recently had the opportunity to go to Holland and spend some of that time at Keukenhof. This is the world’s largest flower bulb display garden, and it celebrated its 60th year this spring. Like taking my three boys to the playground where they have the time of their life, I have found my own playground by going to Keukenhof and taking it all in.

The outdoor flower bulb displays in the park are just absolutely gorgeous. But the main reason for me going the week of Mother’s Day is because the Willem-Alexander Pavilion holds the world’s largest display of lily flowers in an arranged format. I have heard over the years that the displays hold as many as 20,000 lily stems in one building! So after spending all day long looking around, reviewing, and smelling every variety, my nasal passages are clogged up with pollen, therefore hardly being able to sniff up the aroma of a great dinner afterwards. But it is worth it all, because I do come back to the USA loaded with information and data ready to share with my customers.

In the Spring 2009 issue of The Cut Flower Quarterly there was a great article written by David G. Clark about floral fragrance. David mentioned that fragrance has been lost due to the breeders focusing on flower color and longevity. Fragrance is an unconscious but strong deciding factor in impulse buying that we all have fallen victim to. Have you ever walked through a town where the local pastry bakery pumps its fragrance right out to the street? Well, they always get me, and if they have fresh coffee,  I smell that as well, so I get one of those to wash down the pastry. Or if someone in my neighborhood is cooking out on the barbeque, I have to investigate where that aroma is coming from, and while I am walking over, I hope and pray they might have some extra.

“Give Me Lilies in Armfuls”

Okay, enough of food. I do agree with David Clark that a lot of flower fragrance has been lost, and replaced with chemical fragrances. Can we no longer stop and smell the roses?

I have to tell you that is not the case with lilies. With Oriental lilies especially, fragrance is still strong. Some older varieties can be very pungent; newer varieties have a much more pleasant fragrance. The unique characteristic of lilies is that because of their fragrance, presentation and performance, they are one of the best cut flowers consumers can get their hands on. No wonder lilies are one of the top 3 cut flowers out there, together with roses and chrysanthemums.

 Floral fragrance is in (was it ever out?), and hybridizing can provide a more subtle and pleasant fragrance in the near future. Some varieties already do, like Oriental ‘Presidente’ which has a pleasant fruity fragrance.

•  Pollen-stainless varieties. Consumers do desire stainless, or ‘pollen-free’ lilies. This of course needs to  be accomplished through hybridizing.

•  Double-flowering varieties. En route to you! I have seen the first ones. The market will be growing quality double varieties within the next 5 years.

•  Commercial species varieties. This is challenging because everybody loves the unique and different species, or early hybrids that are so hard to come by. The challenge is that although they do have ornamental value for the garden, and in small quantity in cut flower production, it is not commercially viable to go into large-scale bulb production, hoping that the market might pick them up. I do think that there is a market for the species type, but it will be more for gardens and patios.
•  Brushmarks. These are the tigers, spiders, pixels and other painted ones, and they’re becoming more available. Just like with the first generation of LA-hybrids, within this group you do see some early bird challenges that the hybridizers are trying to improve on. Many varieties have weaker stems, smaller flowers, or the coloration is not defined enough. But since these are unique, they do start to find their way into the market and these varieties will hold on until more improved ones take over. As soon as we have them with stronger stems and larger flowers, the market will get to enjoy them.

Ko Knows What’s Best

There are many great varieties out there. Here are my Top Ten favorites.

1.    OT ‘Candy Club’. Specially colored OT is an absolutely stunning pink/white variety, and can be used from the size 14/16. This variety came through exceptionally.
2.    OR ‘Lake Carey’. This is one of the most vibrant flower colors I have ever seen, almost electric. Although it does have a bit of nutrition uptake challenge in the beginning, before you cut it the foliage will green up. It is worth it for the flower.
3.    OR ‘Alessia’. Nice balance. Excellent for winter production because of its strong stems. The clear white color is a sharp contrast to the gold band. All flowers are up facing.
4.    OR ‘Presidente’. High volume lily. Nice leaf shape, big buds and always up facing. The stem is very sturdy and not too tall which make this variety very good for winter forcing. And do not forget, this one has that light fruity fragrance.
5.    LA ‘Trebbiano’. Very strong cream-green variety. Flowers are a bit outfacing but are on very strong stems! Just a knockout variety.
6.    OT ‘Saltarello’. This cantaloupe-salmon OT has one of the nicest presentations in bud stage. The flower petals do curl back a bit when they mature, but it is a stunning variety.
7.    OR ‘Millesimo’ is a beautiful pink-edged flower. Ideally it will hold its color in the summer heat. This variety reminds me of tulip ‘Shirley’; same color scheme.
8.    OR ‘Tiger Woods’. A gorgeous unique tiger flower Oriental lily. Worth trying out.
9.    LA ‘Nashville’. I really like this yellow LA, with its full, large flowers. A true yellow, as you see in daffodil ‘King Alfred’.
10.    AS ‘Tebaldi’. Orange as orange can be, with dark stems and shiny foliage. Tremendous bud count make its overall presentation almost perfect.

I hope I got your taste buds going again for this and next year. And if for some reason you do plan to go Holland let us know, because Zabo Plant Holland does have one of those great coffee machines in our break room, and that is where we have found several of our visitors. With an appointment you are always welcome to visit our test greenhouses. If you cannot come, but still want to see the results, go to
Wishing you a happy & prosperous cut flower season!

Ko Klaver

lily specialist

Ko Klaver is lily specialist Zabo Plant. Contact him at [email protected]