A GROWING CONCERN: Easter lilies a lasting symbol of the season

WELL, MARCH SHOULD be going out like a lamb; but I — being a good old “Northern” Wisconsin boy — find even the worst weather we can have here on the Peninsula in March, or any month of winter for that matter, more like a fluffy little bunny rabbit!

With that said, Spring is upon us. Today is day No. 6 of early, early spring.

With the advent of spring, soon will come April showers, bringing forward my favorite “May flowers.”

Easter, a spring ritual, is also happening next weekend — an incredibly reverent time for many people.

Both spiritually and metaphorically, it’s a time of rebirth and rejuvenation.

And of course, as through out human existence, flowers have played a role in this hallowed event.

The “Easter lily” is one of the most famous symbols of Easter.

For me, it is also a symbol of a new direction and career.

Starting when I was 4, twice a year — a poinsettia at Christmas and a lily at Easter — the owner of Schroeder’s Greenhouse, Otto Schroeder would let each of my siblings and I plant up a pot for holiday sales.

He wanted us to understand the work, care, effort and sales it takes to run a business and make a profit.

I would always select a very large pot and plant seven bulbs in it; the three in the center slightly less deep than the four on the outside in order to have the middle slightly taller.

Some local Catholic church always bought this large wonderfully formed potted lily display, but why?

Lillium candidum (Madonna Lily), i.e. the Easter lily, has been known since antiquity as the symbol of purity, virtue and hope of life — so it became the symbolic spiritual essence of Easter.

Often called the “White robed apostles of hope,” these lilies were found in the garden after Christ’s agony on the cross.

Mythology says these pure white trumpet lilies sprung up from the ground where the drops of sweat from Jesus’s final hours on earth fell.

This lily is also associated with the Virgin Mary as many early Christian painting show the Angel Gabriel giving to the Virgin Mary a handful of these pure white lilies.

So from the very beginning of Christianity, the church and the blessings of Easter have adorned themselves with Easter lilies.

And so should you.

Lillium candidum is actually a very hardy perennial lily that will bloom each following year in September/October becoming 5 feet tall and possessing 30 to 50 flower buds.

It should be planted in a deep 8-inch hole with a sandy topsoil mix. Bone meal should be applied every year in the spring.

This week is a great time to go out and buy a couple Easter lilies for yourself, friends, family or to bring to your church next Sunday. Make sure to water them a little everyday.

A great trick to keep the “purity” of the all white flower is to pull out the yellow stamen inside the flower as soon as they crack open.

This not only keeps the yellow pollen from staining the blossom, but it also prolongs the life of the individual bloom.

In fact, one of my very first paying jobs in the greenhouse was to daily go through the thousands of lilies and pluck out the stamens so the blooms would last longer for the customer.

Here it is 55 years later and still to this day I care and think about Easter lilies, and on this sacred day let me end with a poem from Louise Lewin Matthews title “Easter Morn.”

Easter morn with lilies fair

Fills the church with perfumes rare,

As their clouds of incense rise,

Sweetest offerings to the skies.

Stately lilies pure and white

Flooding darkness with their light,

Bloom and sorrow drifts away,

On this holy hallow’d day.

Easter Lilies bending low

in the golden afterglow,

Bear a message from the sod

To the heavenly towers of God.

________

Andrew May is an ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] dailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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