Four days, seven Dutch designers, one hundred volunteers and workers, one huge conservatory, and over 13,000 cut lilies! This is the situation I found myself in on Monday, May 16th. I had been selected to assist in designing Lilytopia 2011 that occurred May 20-30 at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Penn. This was an eye-opening experience that taught me many things about lilies, floral design, and the Dutch culture.

Lilytopia is a very large event that requires intense planning, preparation, and manpower to create. Dorien van den Berg, the lead designer, was full of creativity and a clear focus that contributed significantly to this year’s success. Longwood staff, Dorien, the Dutch growers, and many others began preparations nearly a year ago.The event showcased the newest varieties available and on the way from Holland, all bred, grown and shipped by the Dutch. The lilies arrived early Tuesday morning via a direct flight from Holland to Philadelphia. At this stage, a crew of staff and volunteers began unpacking and processing them. Meanwhile, many more workers, including myself, were setting up the display mechanics in the conservatory. Towers, archways, arcs, walls, and vases were all set up to be designed. Individual plastic vases were wired or taped to metal fixtures, chicken wire was installed to hold the stems in place, and an irrigation system was integrated to minimize labor. By lunchtime Tuesday, the first lilies were being placed by the Dutch design team. Stem after stem, all 13,000 lilies found a home by Friday afternoon on the conservatory floor.

With so many staff, volunteers, and international designers, it was necessary to build unity amongst the team. For this reason, “bakkie doen” was held twice every day. Translated from Dutch to English, this means “coffee break.” Coffee, tea, pop, and donuts were up for grabs.  (To me, donuts always make the day better.) Everyone got refreshed and chatted for a few minutes before we dove into another round of fragrant, pollen mania. It was amazing to see such a large event come together in four days with minimal confusion and stress. Hats off to all the people involved!

The display opened to the public on Thursday afternoon, followed by a lily Symposium for growers on Monday. It is my hope that many of you attended! If not, you missed a very educational day that covered detailed management issues that occur in lily production, a history of bulb production, an update on the latest flower production technology from Holland, an excellent sustainability presentation, and more. There were many significant attendees, including, growers, bulb distributors, Dutch breeders, representatives from the Netherlands embassy, and lily researchers. As you can tell, the networking opportunities  were huge.

Assisting with Lilytopia was a great experience. I learned the behind- the-scenes process of large floral event work, met many wonderful quick, witty Dutch people, made networking connections that will last a lifetime, and got the opportunity to see the latest lilies on the market and coming in the future. I recommend ‘Eyeliner’ (white with brown edges and freckles), ‘Arsenal’ (yellow center with bright pink/orange outer petals), ‘Navidad’ (a beautiful bright 4th of July red), and ‘Lilytopia’ (fully double white and purple). They will definitely add to your current selection of cut lilies. The final display of lilies was fantastic and breathtaking. If you have never been, mark your calendars for late May next year and plan on attending Lilytopia 2012. It will be a flower show you never forget!

Amy Hinkle

Pennsylvania State University

Two-time ASCFG Scholarship winner Amy Hinkle attends Pennsylvania State University. Contact her at [email protected]