Lilytopia Reblooms

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Lilytopia 2011 at Longwood Gardens [Slideshow]

Deeming the first year a success in 2010, Longwood Gardens mobilized even more Dutch and American floral industry support to host the 10-day spectacular Lilytopia exhibition May 20-30. As Longwood’s grower and Greenhouse Grower contributor Juergen Steininger can attest, assembling a floral exhibition of this magnitude is quite the production.

Five nights before the opening day, 40 skids full of 12,000 cut lilies were flown in from Holland on two flights to JFK International Airport. An additional 1,500 cut calla lilies had already arrived separately. Steininger and his crew pulled an all-nighter, receiving the plants at customs and transporting them back to Longwood, where an even bigger crew was waiting to get to work taking the lilies out of the boxes, trimming them and placing them in water until installation.

Modeled after the famous Lily show at the Keukenhof in The Netherlands, Lilytopia has become an even larger exhibition. Both use the same world-class floral designer Dorien van den Berg, who appeared on “The Martha Stewart Show” this year and last to promote Lilytopia. In addition to hundreds of varieties of Asiatic, Oriental and longiflorum lilies, a secondary exhibit was created to promote interest in callas, which are highly versatile and another floral consumer favorite.

Not Just For Show
Based in Kennett Square, Pa., Longwood Gardens is the living legacy of Pierre S. du Pont, with a mission to inspire people through excellence in garden design, horticulture, education and the arts. While most of its activities are directed to the public, Longwood makes a significant investment in research and engaging the green industry. Longwood Director Paul Redman says he was pleased attendance was considerably up for Lilytopia the second year, with 45 percent more people attending the opening weekend than last year.

The Lilytopia Symposium for the trade was the first Monday and had about the same attendance as the first year, about 100 industry professionals in the beautiful East Conservatory.

One new twist was a sustainability focus. Dr. Casey Sclar gave an excellent presentation on all of Longwood’s sustainable initiatives from recycling, using compost, trialing biodegradable pots and comparing chemical and biological controls. The idea is to come up with scientifically proven and economically viable models to raise quality plants that hit the “triple bottom line” of social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Henk Gude of Applied Plant Research in The Netherlands presented how Dutch bulb growers are using sustainable practices in the field and in storage. One of the biggest issues has been capturing and reducing all chemical runoff. Another is reducing energy consumption in storage facilities. And cut lily flower growers are even stacking production three tiers high in the greenhouse and using LED lights and forced air tubes to maximize production.

Long-time supermarket floral buyer Sandra Hering presented both a retail and consumer focus on sustainability and why growers need to be prepared when customers ask them about environmental impacts. Hering, who represents the MPS certification program developed in The Netherlands, shared how U.S. growers can use it as a valuable tool to answer questions about their own operation, demonstrate environmental responsibility, confidentially benchmark themselves against their peers and reduce expenses by being more informed about chemical and energy usage.

The balance of the program was focused on producing lilies. While Gus de Hertogh provided a perspective of research strides that advanced the bulb sector the last 40 years, Allan Armitage shared the results of his students’ potted lily trials. Bill Miller from Cornell University was the closer, presenting an audience-driven discussion on “Real Research for Real Problems.”

Delilah Onofrey directs Flower Power Marketing for the Suntory Collection. She can be reached at donofrey@gmail.com
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