Every year in NE Ohio about this time, my wife and I anticipate being able to sit out on our deck and gaze upon the stars in the middle of the day. How is this possible? Did I tip over backwards on a chair and hit my head? Nope, we just sniff and see stars! The answer is easily detected with the emergence of one of our favorite species of lily blooming in the Drapescape. This unbelievable bloomer, Lilium orientalis ‘Stargazer’, is most commonly called by its moniker of Stargazer lily. Oriental lilies are renowned for their huge bloom size, intense and eye-catching floral colors and their extraordinary aromas.
This group of hybrid lilies are a unique and complex combination of Oriental and Asiatic lilies created in the 1970’s by Leslie Woodriff. Leslie was an eccentric but ingenious lily breeder living in Brookings, Oregon. In his cluttered greenhouse, Leslie conducted his innovative, but relatively primitive, lily crossbreeding experiments, which dominated all his time and efforts.
Using a glass bottle with the inside coated in black paint, Woodriff tapped a lily flower on the bottle’s side, which allowed him the see and gather the sticky pollen. Then using a camel-haired brush he became a human bee and dusted the pollen from one lily onto the pistil of another. This was the process he preferred and used to create his new flowers as he made crosses of interspecific hybrids and straight Lilium species.
Due to many of flowers of plants in the Oriental lily group typically facing downward, Leslie was surprised to discover the new hybrid lilies had their blooms facing up. Woodriff called the new hybrid cross 'Stargazer' to reference the blooms facing towards the sky rather than the ground! One of the wonderful attributes of these lilies, which my wife and I thoroughly appreciate and enjoy, is their astonishing heady fragrance. Some may find it nauseating and cloying, but outside on a warm evening, sitting on the deck and watching the sun go down, we find the scent wraps around us and we become just a little… star-struck!