Hybridizing Lilies, Orchids, Articles and more !

Welcome to my garden! Share with me, if you will, my special passion for the genus Lilium, the true lilies. There will be native and exotic species, an expanding universe of hybrids, lily culture and lore, and a lot about what happens when one is no longer content to grow only other people’s creations.

My garden is not a landscape architect’s fantasy. Neither Martha Stewart nor Ruth Stout live here. I am an amateur hybridizer, the end of a long line of row crop farmers. The lilies are in rows so they will be easy to pin and convenient for the hands on procedures of hybridizing.

My wife, Crow, and I live near Gravette, Arkansas, in the extreme northwest corner of our state. The USDA plant hardiness zone 6 dips south just enough to make Possum Holler the coolest part of Arkansas. In an average winter, the coldest temperature will be between -10 F and 0 F. Annual rainfall averages 45-50″, fairly well distributed throughout the year. Last spring frost is about the first week of April, and the first killing first killing frost of autumn is in late October.

Lilies start emerging in late March which makes them vulnerable to late spring frost. Most Lilium species evolved in more northerly climates where the ground freezes well below the level of the bulbs. Our soil never freezes that deeply, so the bulbs are all too ready to sprout in the first deceptive warm spell of February or March.

Possum Holler is in a clearing in the middle of 35 acres of deciduous hardwood forest, mostly the oak-hickory forest type. We enjoy many species of wildlife in our woodlands, but most of them eat lilies.

My specialty in hybridizing lilies is the new hybrid group called orienpets or OTs. They are hybrids which attempt to combine the beauty of the oriental lilies with the heat tolerance and easy growability of the trumpet lilies, hence the unfortunate moniker, orien-pet. A secondary interest is the asiatic group where I deal mostly with their polyploid forms, which give stiffer stems and bigger blooms. In both these projects, the goal is the same. I want to create lilies for garden use with excellent vigor, disease tolerance, heat tolerance, and adaptability to steamy southern gardens. With peak bloom in late June and July, they have to thrive in withering heat. They must not fade in blistering sun. Each stem must bloom in an extended raceme for three to four weeks and drop spent petals cleanly so it always looks fresh.

Lovely as they may be in a vase, commercial cut flower lilies have little else in common with the dependable, hardy, garden lilies I intend to create for warmer climates.

May you enjoy these ramblings about my garden obsession. If so, you are welcome to comment by email or stop by Possum Holler for a visit some summer afternoon. Until then, may all your seedlings be like the children in Lake Wobegon, all above average.

Arthur F. Evans, D.D.S.
P.O. Box 186
Gravette, AR 72736