The word lily is a great example of the imprecision of everyday language in describing the complexity of the natural world. Its dictionary definition of “a bulbous plant with large trumpet-shaped, typically fragrant, flowers on a tall, slender stem” does not follow the strict rules that scientists use when categorizing and naming plants. To a scientist, lily refers to a specific genus (Lillium), a botanical family (Lilliaceae), and a botanical order (Lilliales). Even more confusing, many plants which were once considered to be part of the Lily order and fit the dictionary description, have recently been moved to the Asparagus order (Asparagales) due to new molecular data which changes the understanding of the evolutionary history of this group, and hence their taxonomic classification. Regardless of the confusing name issues, lilies and their relatives are some of the showiest and most sought after garden plants.
Our “Lilies” collection contains plants that can broadly be considered as “lilioid” in traditional concepts of the group. In scientific terms, the most accurate name for this collection would be the ‘Petaloid Monocots’. For obvious reasons, we feel that “Lillies” is a much nicer name, and fits within the common definition of Lily. The diversity in growth forms in this garden is stunning, from the large tree aloe to tiny flowering bulbs and everything in between. Highlights include the large-leaved dragon tree (Dracaena aletriformis) and a beautiful stand of naked ladies (Amaryllis belladonna).