‘Black Beauty’ isn’t really black. It is mysterious, though. Iwonder why its breeders decided to give it that name? Its dusky-wine-red coloring deserves credit on its own.
Nonetheless, I’m not about to quibble (much), because Black Beauty is a fine lily. Though it’s offered by Old House Gardens, it’s not really an heirloom lily, it just looks as if it should be. “We followed our hearts on this one,” says owner Scott Kunst. “As we talked about all the great heirloom bulbs we might celebrate, we kept coming back to how spectacular ‘Black Beauty’ is and saying ‘too bad it’s not that old or endangered.’ Finally we decided if we all loved it so much and thought it belonged in everyone’s garden, it didn’t really matter if it’s only 45 years old and not yet on the edge of doom.”
In different lights, the color of Black Beauty comes off lighter or darker. Since I’m a nut about the way the stamens come bursting out of the deep starlike cleft in its center, I take pictures of it in lots of different lights.
The back view has its own curvy complex beauty.
Black Beauty is a hybrid of two species, Lilium speciosum rubrum and L. henryi. It was bred in 1957 from Leslie Woodriff, who specialized in crosses that people had thought were impossible. Its breeding makes it an Orienpet, which is lilyspeak for an Oriental/Trumpet lily cross. Since neither of these species is a trumpet lily, I’m a little puzzled as to why, but that’s what the authorities say. We must bow to the authorities.
Dave’s Garden reports good results from growing this lily in zone 4; it’s also trouble-free in my zone 8 garden, where it takes weather from 15 degrees F to 105F without turning a hair. It does well for me in anything from pretty shady semishade to pretty sunny. It comes back after abuse (such as not watering too well), and, I just found out, it’s another unexpected hummingbird plant! (Yet another excuse for planting more lilies.)
Something I still haven’t captured to my satisfaction is the texture, which has subtly sparkling bits of light mixed with the smoothness and stubbly spots.
All this and fragrance, too.
Here I have to make a confession: I’m a lily freak, but I just don’t like Oriental lilies that much. The species, yes: the big honking hybrids – not really. I’ve tried, I really have. But Black Beauty, with its graceful species look, is the only Oriental hybrid I want in my garden.