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‘Black Beauty’ Lily


‘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.

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Tatyana August 28, 2009, 6:31 pm

    It is one majestic flower, I would even say dramatic flower!

  • Susie August 28, 2009, 6:48 pm

    I agree with you on not loving lilies that much, but this one is a real stunner. I love the long green stamens.

  • Town Mouse August 28, 2009, 7:29 pm

    Great photos! Almost makes me want to grow a few of those beauties. (Almost)

  • Karen - An Artist's Garden August 30, 2009, 6:33 am

    You have captured ‘Black beauty’ very well – and you have also reminded me about it. I had it in another garden ages ago, and will now put it on my wish list for this.

    I enjoy learning more about the history behind plants here.

  • Daffodil Planter August 31, 2009, 6:35 pm

    Call me corny, but I love the L. s. rubrum. This cousin smolders attractively too, as the Rita Hayworth to rubrum’s Loretta Young.

  • Sylvia (England) September 1, 2009, 1:12 am

    Pomona, I love lilies but have to restrict how many I grow because I have problems with lily beetles which eats the leaves and buds. I have to spray, I don’t have the time to pick them off, they are becoming a really problem. I wish I had grown more lilies years ago before these pests arrived!

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  • Steve September 1, 2009, 4:43 pm

    I particularly liked the second and the last pictures, Pomona. I thought you did an outstanding job of providing texture, personally. And I do know what you were searching for. That’s definitely a killer Lily, just absolutely gorgeous.

  • susan morrison (garden-chick) September 1, 2009, 4:54 pm

    I’ve been obsessing about black in the garden lately (still have a Ceanothus ‘Black Tuxedo’ in a pot looking for a sunnier home than mine!

    Drop by my blog and you will see that I have completed the meme as ordered, ma’am!

  • Pomona Belvedere September 3, 2009, 4:31 pm

    Tatyana, you know from dramatic, and you’re right: it is unashamedly dramatic.

    Susie, it’s only the big Oriental hybrid lilies I don’t love, my bank account can attest that I have maybe an unhealthy attachment to other kinds. Glad you like this one.

    Town Mouse, luckily we have some beautiful native lilies you could use with good conscience!

    Karen, I’m indeed complimented that you think I captured Black Beauty well – and glad to have reminded you to get it back into your garden.

    DP, L. s. rubrum is a beautiful lily; I’ve unsuccessfully tried to grow the white version (one of those dumb bot names: Beautiful red lily that’s white). Not enough sun? It just doesn’t like me? The species have been more difficult for me to grow, maybe they have more exacting requirements.

    Sylvia, I’m so sorry about the lily beetles, your garden is lovely from the pictures I’ve seen, but lilies are magical plants. Neem oil or citrus sprays don’t work for them?

    Steve, those are also my favorite photos: does this mean we have equally good tastes? Glad you think I got the texture.

    garden-chick, ooh, ‘Black Tuxedo’ ceanothus sounds divine, I love those darker ones. I’ll check out your memes in a moment.

  • Baleseng October 24, 2015, 11:58 am

    Fabulous card hun, love these Gorjuss girl stamps..Candice has quiet a few of them…Just waetnd to say “Thank You” for still visiting and leaving lovely comments on my blog, as I know you really have your hands full at the moment..you are a very thoughtful and giving person :)Big hugs,Marjoriexx

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