(Edited from AP) Dutch hybridizers are gilding the lily, upgrading the cut flower favorite that also brings such long-lasting beauty to gardens.

New varieties with deeper tints, stronger stems and softer fragrances are entering the market, prompting retailers to frequently update their websites and catalogs.

(Edited from AP) Dutch hybridizers are gilding the lily, upgrading the cut flower favorite that also brings such long-lasting beauty to gardens.

New varieties with deeper tints, stronger stems and softer fragrances are entering the market, prompting retailers to frequently update their websites and catalogs.

“Our customers seem very interested in new lily varieties and they are selling well,” says Becky Heath. She and her husband own and operate Brent and Becky’s Bulbs near Gloucester, Va.

Breeders like lilies because the hybrids can be crossed and their progeny sold more quickly than other bulb flowers, like tulips, that may require a decade or better to develop. Gardeners like lilies because the bulbs are so easy to grow.

It wasn’t so long ago that lilies came only in four types: Asiatic, Oriental, Longiflorum and Trumpet (garden-only varieties with tremendous strength). Dutch breeders have been actively crossing those types, producing an average 60 to 70 new varieties each year. Most are developed to boost quality and make shipping easier for the cut flower industry.

Names of the new types point to their parentage. “LO” hybrids, for example, are derived from Longiflorum-Oriental varieties and carry traits of both _ notably large blooms and heavy fragrance. That also goes for the “OA” or Oriental-Asiatics, with their bright colors, shiny foliage and softer scent.

Then there’s the “LA” grouping, or Longiflorum-Asiatic, which exhibit a brightly colored, trumpet-shaped bloom. Add the double-petal and spider varieties and it’s easy to understand why flower fanciers are calling this the new golden age of the lily.

“It’s a holistic thing,” says Juergen Steininger, Longwood’s technical bulb authority, about “Lilytopia” (May 21-31), which he is helping to organize. “The focus will be on bringing the industry, the breeder and the consumer together to see what’s new. It will involve education with seminars, lectures and displays of cut flowers.”

You can’t go wrong with a lily, Steininger says. “Most lily cultivars are hardy to minus 20. You can have them in borders, boxes or beds. You can add them to some annuals. You can bring them inside in a vase. Mass them in yards and the clumps will just grow bigger and bigger.”

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