The first Easter Lily bulbs (Lilium longiflorum) were brought to the United States in a suitcase in 1919. A soldier returning from Japan during WWI had the lily bulbs with him, and it seems that he gave them to his friends as gifts. This happened along the southern coast of Oregon and California, where they have been cultivating them ever since. Sometimes they are called Bermuda Lilies because they are grown there as well.
Part of our Easter lore says there were lilies of this kind in the Garden of Gethsemane, and because of that and the soldier who brought the bulbs, don’t we all have some fond memory or image of the elegant flower somewhere in the back of our minds along side the Easter eggs? (Like in my mind I see a simple yet striking bouquet of Easter Lilies on display in a bookstore in Bermuda when my children were very small and my grandfather bringing a potted lily to my house one Easter on what would be his last visit).
Here are some things that I have learned about the Easter Lily: If you remove the yellow anthers from the center, the pollen will not stain your hands or the table cloth or irritate allergy sufferers and it will prolong the life of the plant; if you get a potted lily wrapped in colored foil, remove it before you water so that it can drain properly; if you have cats, don’t have an Easter Lily at all (they are toxic for cats); and if you have a sunny spot, the plant can be put in the garden but it will not bloom in the spring like the ones that we give and receive at Easter (these are unnaturally forced), instead it will bloom in early summer, which is actually quite proper.
Happy spring! Happy Easter!