My adventure with flowers

My adventure with flowers, like most adventures, began accidentally, suddenly, with no vision of the future or any inkling of where in my imagination it would take me. It was motivated, I suppose, by the natural pleasure of communing with beautiful flowers and the atavistic need to turn the soil, in my opinion inherent in everyone. It all began when, one day, I became the proud owner of a 200 m2 plot of land in the Pracowniczych Ogródków Działkowych just outside Lodz, in Kolumna. I was, at that time, a full-time university lecturer and medical doctor, a professor of the Medical Academy of Lodz, a director of the Pediatrics Institute and head of the Clinic for sick children, and it would be reasonable to assume that an allotment would be a good way of spending a few free moments away from a hectic professional schedule. As I had no particular interest in growing fruit trees and vegetable bushes, the plot filled with flowers, which slowly became a monoculture of lilies, thanks to the influence of Kazimierz Mynett's eponymous book. And thus it began. Only after many years did I finally manage to obtain a larger garden, which has since given me the full potential to cultivate my own interests in flowers or, strictly speaking, lilies. ogrod The exponentially-growing fascination with lilies and their cultivation, as well as the commitment of the movement of decorative plant lovers in our country, have been spontaneous and uncontrolled. They were supported by people with a passion for the environment: eager, sensitive, infatuated and disinterested, for whom even the smallest garden was a world of inestimable emotions and feelings. I was not aware of how much this world had become my world. In 1981, on my initiative, I actively participated in creating the Polskie Towarzystwo Miłośników Lilii (The Polish lily enthusiasts association) which sprang from the Stowarzyszenia Inżynierów i Techników Ogrodnictwa (The association of horticultural engineers and technicians), and since l987, has operated as an independent organization. From the moment of its conception, I played an active role in its activities: from 1981 to 87 as Vice President and from 1987 to 91, the President of the managing committee. The association currently numbers close to 500 people from towns and cities all over Poland, and as part of its development and atrakcyjnym the program of activities has been adapted to meet the needs and expectations of lovers of decorative plants and beautiful flowers of our country. In l984, I translated “Let's Grow Lilies !” / “Uprawiajmy Lilie !” by Virginia Howie, (a book already published around the world in many languages) into Polish and popularised it amongst lily enthusiasts in the country, and a year later I completed and published “Spis Odmian i Gatunków Lilii” (A guide to lily varieties and species).

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A significant role in the interest in lily cultivation flourishing at the time was played by “Lilie”, the journal of the Polskie Towarzystwo Miłośników Lilii, published from 1983 to 86 under my editorship. In 1983 and 1985, in Lodz, the association organized two of the first national lily exhibitions to be held in the country, under the names of "Liliowe Impresje Łódź '83 i Łódź '85", (Lily impressions, Łódź) and each was connected with a symposium on the theme of lilies. The " Liliowe Impresje Łódź '85" exhibition and symposium was of an international character, bringing together well-known growers from Czechoslovakia and Holland (Vaclav Jost and Douwe Wierstra). During this time, the first system of classifying and scoring plants at flower shows was established, and during the symposium, a presentation was given regarding lily cultivation, variety studies and protection of plants. The publications accompanying the event made it the forerunner of other later exhibitions organized annually under the name of " Liliowe Impresje " in other Polish cities. It was the time for meetings of a different character; autumn conferences in a number of towns across the country were organised under the name “Liliada”. Their aim, aside from the experience and the social aspect, was the selling and swapping of lily bulbs, nasion and other plant materials. This part of history is fileld with the auctions of attractive lily bulbs, and the highest tension and emotion. In 1990, I took the initiative to promote lilies further, and with my participation, the movie “Liliowe Hobby”, directed by Jerzy Bezkowski, was completed by the Wytwórni Filmów Oświatowych w Łodzi. It is with the greatest sentiment and feeling that I recall our joint efforts with the camera in the hands of talented nature documentary makers, searching the natural lily markets in our country and the lily exhibitions in Czechoslovakia and Holland. Especially valuable is the time spent obtaining consent to film a number of scenes from the European Spring Garden in Keukenhof, Holland. During the times of the Polskie Towarzystwo Miłośników Lilii (Polish Lily Enthusiasts Association), it was forbidden to travel outside the borders of our country, particularly the United States, where the world’s most prestigious lily enthusiasts association operated - The North American Lily Society. It often happened that the the activities of sister associations in Poland, their aims and successes,were published by NALS. A number of members of the Polskie Towarzystwo Miłośników Lilii also became members of the The North American Lily Society.




A great admirer of the development of the Polskie Towarzystwo Miłośników Lilii in Poland, always ready to provide help and assistance, was the unforgettable Dorothy Schaefer of NALS. My personal successes in lily cultivation grew from the basis of the universal fascination with lilies which existed in Poland at that time.

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In the years 1978-97, I dealt with growing lilies, and from 1981, their breeding. From 1986 - 94 sixteen of my own lily clones were added to The International Lily Register /Międzynarodowym Rejestrze Lilii/, the most well-known of which are “Konstancja”, “Bohun”, “Yeti”, “Clown”, “Green Year” and “As”, as well as the first Polish oriental lily variety, “Clackamas”.

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In 1985, I carried out pioneering work on the breeding of polyploid varieties of lilies, which were to go on to achieve success ten years later.

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In 1995, I became the first breeder in Poland, and one of the few in the world, to register three tetraploid Asian Lily varieties in The International Lily Register : “Great Dick”, “Kwartet” and “Kolumna” Keeping polyploid lilies brought stunning results. The variety “Great Dick”, registered by myself, had 56 flower elements on one shoot as opposed to the typical 8 – 12 flowers, which was an unbelievable floral achievement. I also kept a trumpet shaped tetraploid lily (an unregistered clone), which grew to a height of 3.5 metres. I realized that by doing this, I had crossed some kind of insurmountable barriers to getting into the Guinness book of records. My achievements in cultivation and my contacts with many fellow breeders from other European countries (Holland, Great Britain, Czechoslovakia, Latvia, the ex-Związku Radzieckiego), the United States and Australia brought me into contact with of some of the most well-known people in the global lily community. Unintentionally, I had become counted among the members of an informal club of the greatest lily cultivators. I found myself being offered invitations to speak on lilies at some of the most prestigious symposia and conferences. At the 5th International Lily Conference in 1989, organized in London by The Royal Horticultural Society, after a 20-year break in contact between lily enthusiasts across the world, asked me to give an address on European lily varieties. A week’s stay in London, together with the chance to get better acquainted with the most attractive gardens of England and Scotland was an opportunity to learn more about the particularly sublime specialities of British gardeners, - the cultivation of rare plant varieties, among which were lilies. A year later, I was invited to attend, and give two addresses at, the First International Conference organized by the Towarzystwo Liliowe Republik Nadbałtyckich of the ex-Związku Radzieckiego at Jurmal, in Latvia. It was for me, an opportunity to establish close contacts and make the acquaintance of breeders from both Latvia and the Baltic states, who had made significant achievements in keeping lilies, but because of the iron curtain of Socialism, were completely unknown to the international community. Particularly, interest was building in the phenomenon of Latvia - a small Baltic republic which was a significant power on the lily enthusiasts' map of the world (see below). However, it must be said that the greatest honor was the invitation I received from The North American Lily Society to attend their 47th Annual International Lily Show in Portland, USA in 1994, with a proposition to speak on “Europe: Lilies and People”. The awareness of representing our content, Europe, at the American Lily Conference and Exhibition was a heavy weight to bear, and demanded particularly stringent preparations.



I met that challenge, and during the farewell banquet at the close of the conference, I was named an honorary life member of the The North American Lily Society: the only European at the time to have received that honour.

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My personal successes in the business of promoting lilies in Poland, their care and cultivation, would not overshadow the most important successes, which were achieved with the participation of all the members of the Polskie Towarzystwo Miłośników Lilii. Thanks to their help,Poland has taken its place on the lily map of Europe, which by no means, is no small achievement.


And there have been yet more successes. They have been written into commemorative books detailing lilies with anonymous heritages.


It contains, written in human terms, a profound message that can be addressed to all involved in the cultivation of flowers. The tale of my adventures with flowers has its own surprising, yet prosaic, ending. On the stitches of fate and spectacular successes in floristry, I recognized the clash between the responsibilities associated with being the professional pediatrician, the research worker and the university lecturer, and occasionally, the grower devoted to improving lilies by striving to achieve more. It was impossible to serve two masters. Somewhere along the line, something must not have been true. So, in the mid 90s, I parted with flowers. It has been 15 years. I’ve finished my professional duties, I’m retired and a garden without lilies seems empty to me. The recovery of a lily collection over 15 years, a unique garden of polyploid lily varieties collected and improved through my own tribulations for many years, would never happen. Help came to me from the lilies daylilies. I compared achievements in their cultivation with old varieties from the collection of Brother Stefan Franczak, which grew in my garden for many years. Worldwide progress in the development of lily cultivation has been unbelievable, and is to be admired. Unfortunately, it is unnoticed and is not valued in our country, certainly not to the degree that it deserves, indeed, the modern-day lily is an exceptionally attractive garden plant. Attempts to produce our own lily daylily varieties and promote their cultivation in our country prompted a second installment of my second floral adventure. I don’t know what will come from it, but I have to try!