Lilytopia: Longwood’s Lily Heaven

Here a lily. There a lily. Everywhere you look a lily.

The East Conservatory at Longwood Gardens was fully decorated with cut lilies the last 10 days of May for Lilytopia, Longwood’s inaugural event showcasing the newest lilies Dutch hybridizers have developed. The world-famous lily show at the Keukenhof in The Netherlands is the inspiration for Lilytopia.

Dutch floral designer Dorien van den Berg led the design effort at Longwood, converting the conservatory into a lily heaven which nearly 60,000 people experienced during Lilytopia.

“Lilytopia was a tremendous, first-time effort for Longwood Gardens,” says Paul Redman, Longwood’s executive director. “Planning for Lilytopia began more than two years ago and required the support and active participation of numerous Longwood team members and international partners from The Netherlands and the Dutch bulb industry. It truly took a global village to make happen.”

One Lilytopia component was a grower symposium May 24. More than 100 growers, retailers and breeders gathered for a lily education, learning everything from the most frequent grower pitfalls with lilies and solutions to diseases like upper leaf necrosis in Oriental lilies to potential market opportunities for hybrids–including hybrids that have yet to be developed.

A buyer’s panel with representatives from Whole Foods and Winn-Dixie was another highlight. Whole Foods, for example, is interested in buying lilies as locally as it can despite the fact the majority are currently imported from The Netherlands. Winn-Dixie, meanwhile, reports it sold 100,000 Easter lilies in a 10-day span this year at its 500-plus stores across the United States. Easter lily sales were reportedly up 12 percent this year over last year, and considering the economy, Winn-Dixie is pleased with the growth.

The buyers believe more lily opportunities exist domestically, and they anticipate Lilytopia creating more buzz about them. Redman also believes Lilytopia gives consumers something to get excited about.

“The excitement is evident through sales in the lily shop where guests could purchase Dutch lily bulbs,” he says. “The purpose of the display was education–to bring awareness to consumers about the diversity and beauty of lilies.”

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