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Manitoba Lily Fancier

Barrie Strohman, Neepawa, MB


I was born at Neepawa on August 12, 1930, and I'm still there gardening on a small rural acreage. I retired from my work as a contractor in 1993. I was a carpenter, builder of houses and farm buildings.

My first recollections of gardens, flowers and plants center about weeding the garden on the family farm. That must have been one of my assigned chores. I also remember picking wild fruit with my grandmother and having her point out different native fruits and shrubs and having her identify various wildflowers in bloom. At that early time, I was admonished not to pick the prairie lily (L. philadelphicum) for my wildflower bouquets.

For many years I grew Asiatic hybrids, even before, I knew what they really were in terms of classification. I was introduced to L. martagon about 1982 or 1983 by Ed Robinson of Wawanesa, Manitoba. Ed, of course, is famous for his Gaybird Nursery in Wawanesa and for his pioneering work in bringing L. tsingtauense into the hybridizing of L. martagon hybrids. Another Manitoba martagon fancier, Alice Moger, had been hybridizing mainly with L. martagons and most specifically, ‘Black Prince’ and also ‘Rosalinda’. She also "cultured" or inspired my interest.

My home gardening activities include growing over 1000 lily varieties and species. Of course, we vegetable garden and have a small orchard for fresh fruit. Every year, I make scores of planned pollinations and collect the seeds with care every fall. I grow out the resultant seedlings, tend and look after them with devotion. My interests lie with Asiatics, species, martagons and polyploids. I also have been testing some early flowering Orientals and their hybrids involving Orientals. My specific hybridizing goals include among other things:

  1. To create fragrant lilies in the Asiatic hybrid lines,
  2. To produce some prairie hardy trumpet and Orientals lilies,
  3. To produce outfacing and upfacing hybrid martagon lilies.

We have a good-sized collection of martagon hybrids that I amassed over the years. I have won a lot of ribbons at the international level with these special lilies at NALS shows and I have done well in our regional shows. I have a lot of the Frank Skinner martagons, some from Fred Tarlton and of course, Ed Robinson. Ed Robinson, at over 90 years of age, sensed his time on earth was coming to a close and gave me permission to rescue several hundred martagon hybrids from the grown over beds at his nursery. We sifted out of rather difficult situations between 400 and 600 martagon bulbs in various sizes and in various states of well being. We have years of evaluations of these Robinson seedlings and years of sleuthing as to the names of some of the already registered cultivars.

I have named and intend to register a few seedlings over the years. ‘Mary Margaret’, ‘Plum Blossom’, ‘Alice Moger’, ‘Rosemary Margaret’, ‘Frances Ann’ and ‘Something Else’. More hybrid Asiatics have been tentatively earmarked for registration with RHS; ‘Land of Plenty’, ‘Neepawa’ and ‘Good Question’ to name a few. I have many, many other seedlings coming on in my garden. Showing lilies is a special interest of mine. A lot of people have visited my lily gardens.

In 1995 my son, Nigel, who has developed an interest in horticulture & lilies in particular, put out the Lily Nook’s first catalogue. This retail business has really blossomed, shipping lily bulbs worldwide. With the increased tourism since our first catalogue was released, a local lady, Eleanor Nicholson noticed this and as a result spearheaded the town of Neepawa to adopt the lily as their town flower and host an annual lily festival that is held the 3rd weekend in July.

The Lily Nook has grown to have over 2000 named varieties spanning many different divisions. With many new and exciting varieties added each year it looks like there will always be lilies in my future.