In summer on the East End we revel in color, from the sea and sand, of course, and from the flowers that fill gardens everywhere. A big flower garden can be a lot of work, but you can get a lot of dazzle for not a lot of work with two classic summer flowers that you can plant in spring and enjoy in summer.
Both lilies and daylilies have mostly trumpet-shaped flowers, but they are very different plants, each offering their own rewards.
Daylilies are incredibly easy to grow, come in a huge and ever-expanding range of colors, and require practically no care. How can you go wrong with such a plant? Daylilies will make themselves at home in any ordinary garden soil. They’ll bloom in full sun or partial shade; pastel pinks, soft yellows, peach, mauve and white flowers hold their color best in partial to light shade; in full, blazing sun plant daylilies in bright gold, mahogany red, rich orange and other strong colors.
Each daylily bloom lasts just a single day, but plants bear loads of them. Each flowering stem bears several blossoms, one at a time. When the last bloom on the stem has wilted, cut off the stalk at its base. Reblooming daylily varieties such as Stella de Oro and her relatives, and hybrids with Returns as part of their name (such as Happy Returns and Rosy Returns) will produce new flowering stems all summer long. You can also plant early, midseason and late-blooming daylily varieties. Knowledgeable staff at local nurseries can guide you in your choices.
True lilies, aristocrats of the summer garden, include the deliciously fragrant Casa Blanca and Star Gazer lilies found in florist shops and bridal bouquets, along with a huge number of others Lily classification is very complex, and both species and hybrid forms can find a home in your garden. There are Asiatic Hybrids, Aurelian Hybrids, martagons, trumpets, Turks caps and so many more to choose from. If you want to have lilies in your landscape, search for them by their flowering times—early, mid or late summer—then choose them by color. Good local nurseries and garden centers offer a decent selection of lily plants ready to bloom, and many more are available from online and mail-order sources.
Lilies used to be considered hard to grow, but the hybrids we plant today are tougher than their finicky forebears. If you give them the right spot they’ll reward you with lavish—and deliciously fragrant—blossoms year after year. Lilies grow best in light, humusy soil that is rich in organic matter and well drained. Whether your garden is blessed with rich Bridgehampton loam or poorer, sandier soil, adding lots of organic matter in the form of compost to it is a good idea. Lilies cannot tolerate soggy soil and standing water around their bulbs. They also do not like hot soil, so give them a good layer of a loose, organic mulch to help keep the soil cooler in summer. A location in filtered sun for most of the day is ideal for lilies. During dry weather water the plants once or twice a week before they bloom; after bloom is finished they like drier conditions.
Above all, when your lilies are in bloom be sure to cut some stems to bring indoors—a vase of lilies can perfume a whole room. Breathe deeply and enjoy.