At this time of year, I usually treat myself to an indoor plant in full bloom: a spot of colour to dispel the gloom of winter. In keeping with this tradition, I made plans to buy a “Coldplay” oriental lily that was advertised in a flyer for a local store. The price was not too bad and the flowers looked beautiful in the photo. But when I got to the store, I was disappointed in the plants. Yes, the blooms were a pristine white and they were large, well formed and fragrant. It was something about the foliage that bothered me. It was just a bunch of strap-like leaves clustered around the base of the plant. It occurred to me that the source of my disappointment was that I had imagined a more majestic plant, a plant with more presence; a plant, in short, like Lilium ‘Casa Blanca’.
Casa Blanca lilies can grow to 4 feet or more, on slender stems with minimal foliage. A fully opened bloom can measure 10 inches in diameter. The fragrance of these blooms has been described as irresistible, intoxicating and seductive. Their scent is especially intense at night.
They are produced from bulbs which are planted during their dormant season. Lilies have contractile roots which pull the plant down to the correct depth, therefore it is better to plant the bulbs too shallowly rather than too deeply.
Although I have read in gardening books that lilies require rich soil and plenty of moisture during the growing season, I have found them quite easy to grow. One year, I planted some bulbs in a hot, dry meadow and then forgot about them until one day when I came across a Casa Blanca lily in full, gorgeous bloom, as fine as anything you might find in a florist’s shop, in spite of my neglect and the many deer who had been passing through. As appetizing as lilies are to deer, some species can be toxic to cats, causing them renal failure, so do remind your cats not to eat the lilies!
As they are tall and narrow, Casa Blanca lilies can be underplanted with shorter, fuller perennials, such as cranesbill (Geranium) or lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis).
Casa Blanca lilies can be grown in containers and make excellent cut flowers. The Chinese consider lilies to be symbols of summer and abundance and say that the lily stands for “forever in love”. In the language of flowers, the Casa Blanca lily means “celebration”. Not surprisingly, these lilies are one of the most popular wedding flowers used today.