Unstained Melody (for those who love lilies)

We are in the glory season for Oriental lilies, great big killer-fragrant beauties that are among the brightest stars of the late summer garden.


And as most veteran lily growers know, that means we’re also in the season of nearly indelible bright gold pollen stains on anything and anyone who happens to brush those loaded anthers.

Florists deal with this problem by removing the offending dye-stuff, which not only makes the flowers stain-free but also ( according to some) enables them to last longer. Gently grasp each dangling anther with the blades of a small pruner and pull, don’t snip. The docked filament will spring back gracefully and come to a point instead of looking pruned.

Not surprisingly, castration makes the blooms look sterile and somewhat fake; not plastic, exactly, but incomplete. The best solution is to have a lot of lilies ( fighting the beetles as described here and doctor only those blossoms that face traffic.


That way, your lilies won’t gild anybody…

And vice versa, I hope. “Gild the lily” may be considered a standard idiom, but I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it. Among other things, Shakespeare’s original “paint the lily “ ( King John; I had to look it up) actually makes sense:

Therefore, to be possess’d with double pomp,
To guard a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful and ridiculous excess.

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