Lilies are one of the most spectacular flowers in the garden. Colours range from the snowiest white to vibrant hues of yellow, orange, pink, red, and almost black. Giant Oriental Trumpet lilies can reach heights over 2m while miniatures spread their beauty at a mere 40cm. All make excellent cut flowers.

A vase of lilies can add stunning impact to any room. Pick flowers as the buds are just beginning to open. When the flowers are fully open, remove the orange pollen-coated stamens to avoid staining the blooms, clothes or furniture. Double flowering lilies do not have any pollen, thus avoiding this problem.

When cutting, leave at least one third of the stem on the plant to help the bulb gather strength for the next year. If the stem is cut too short the bulb may not flower the following year. Never buy lilies from a cut flower grower that has cut the stems long - they will take at least two years to flower again.

Oriental lilies are popular for outstanding fragrance and once cut will release this fragrance indoors. Asiatic lilies are not fragrant but are the earliest to flower and have very long stems, making them perfect cut flowers.

Lily stems can be cut anytime after the lowest bud, which will be the first to open, is showing its true colour. When placing the lilies in a vase ensure there are no leaves in the water to foul it. Leave the upper leaves on the stem as they will provide nutrients for the unopened flower buds. Keep the vase out of direct sunlight and the lilies will last longer. Change the water daily. A drop of bleach will help to keep the water clean. They will last from 7-14 days

Forcing Lilies

If you need to force lilies to open for a special event then place the stems in a solution of two tablespoons of sugar in 1 litre of warm water. Place the vase or bucket of lilies in a plastic bag so the lilies are completely covered and tie with a twist-tie to create a warm, humid cloud around the lilies. Lilies can be kept in this sweetened solution overnight, but do not leave them for more than twenty-four hours. If the buds are still not open, replace the sweetened water with plain warm water,changing it every few hours until the lilies finally open.