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On Gardening: These will be your calla lilies, next year and for always

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

If you have thought about growing calla lilies but doubted your abilities, know this: If I can do it, you can too! I was sent some bulbs for testing in late April. My first bloom was around June 1 and I still have dozens of blooms and can see more coming, but like you, I am still doubting myself.

In my box for testing were the six varieties of the new Be My Calla series coming out next year from Proven Winners. There were five bulbs of each variety that looked a little like biscuits or what I imagine scones to look like. I was also given pots about similar in size to those used for chrysanthemums. I immediately emailed and asked if I was supposed to grow them up as transplants or if I could simply plant the bulbs in the ground. There was no response, telling me I was the Chuck Yeager tester here, except not planes but calla lilies.

My wife, Jan, told me she loved calla lilies and that a house we rented once had some. Somehow I missed knowing all of that, that she loved them or that we had them. So that is all my experience with calla lilies. And to the best of my knowledge, I have never seen the bulbs or plants for sale. The real pressure, however, was when she said she loved them — this meant I had to plant them.

I decided to plant the five bulbs of each variety by color partnerships with my other flowers. This meant a lot was going to be grown in the main pollinator garden. I did get to plan a special design for one variety. I will explain how it trainwrecked.

I used my Twist 'n Plant auger that was attached to my drill for planting. I planted them 3 to 4 inches deep and about 10 inches apart. The South has been like a rainforest for much of the summer, and everything exploded in growth. Although five-bulb allotments can’t create a catalogue look, holy wow I never expected them to be so beautiful, and give a show that lasted so long. I didn’t expect them to give added dazzling hues as they aged. The foliage, texturally speaking, is also a real showstopper.

I ended up creating calla lily vignettes with the combinations. Some were planned, others just happened. I might not have planned red coneflowers and the yellow Be My Sunshine calla to partner up, but they did. A real calla lily pro might not like that, but guess what, the Happy Wife did! This kind of scenario happened throughout the garden.

In this one special area I planned to grow a tall red Abyssinian banana plant with the new Summerific Edge of Night perennial hibiscus. The Be My Calla Prince calla lilies were to be the perfect partners. My wreck occurred when a chipmunk ran into the planting that was looking so picture-perfect. Allie, a 110-pound Dutch shepherd living with me, saw this and said "Stay Granddad, I’ll get that chipmunk out for you." The banana and the chipmunk came through just fine. Everything else is in triage.

 

The six Be My Calla lilies have dazzling colors, like Be My Sunshine a flashy yellow, and Be My Main Squeeze a hot orange that ages with fiery red tips. The Be My Heart is a deep dark burgundy that will partner well with all of the other colors. Be My Princess is a glowing iridescent pink and will be the hit for the princesses living at your home, and deep burgundy red that will steal your heart. The last two are Be My Prince, a rich deep pink with white margins, and Be My First Love, which I consider to be a sensational mauve-pink.

Be My Calla lilies coming from Proven Winners really are easy to grow and recommended as perennial in zones 8a and warmer. They can be grown in the landscape, in containers and in areas indoors too. Next year looks to be packed with great new plants. The Be My Calla lilies will surely be a hit.

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(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

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