During the planning stages for the first Lemon Lily Festival we used money allocated to us by Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone to purchase Lemon lilies from a commercial nursery. About half of those lilies were planted around Idyllwild with the hopes that they would grow and bloom quickly as a symbol of our restoration effort. Sadly that turned out not to be the case.
I was very disheartened when the next year the only planted lilies I could find were at Lilly Creek by the Idyllwild Nature Center, but none of those bloomed that year. The following year and again this year some of those lilies have started blooming.
I planted about half a dozen lilies at the idyllic Quiet Creek Inn on Strawberry Creek. Although it is private property it does provide the opportunity for visitors to Idyllwild to get a glimpse of what Strawberry Creek could look like if managed properly. After meeting with the proprietors I knew they would be good stewards of the lilies.
Since this was the first attempt at planting lilies in a location where they might thrive unattended, I was not entirely sure where to place them. For the most part I relied on observations of lilies growing in the wild, but thought that it would be prudent to plant them at varying distances from the main channel to compensate for the changing water level from season to season and year to year. Unfortunately that next year we had a worse case scenario in which Strawberry Creek flooded becoming a raging torrent. I fear that many of those not yet established plants got washed away.
Last year a photo began circulating around town of one of those lilies in glorious bloom. Ironically the one that thrived was the last one I planted almost as an after thought. It was placed high up on the bank in a patch of wild roses in a location that I thought was the least likely to succeed. Just how its roots managed to reach the water is a mystery to me. Don’t that beat all!
At another Idyllwild location where we planted a single lily there is now a gopher hole.
As an experiment I planted two lilies in Lilly Creek in plain view of the campground road. This was to see if 1) they would grow there and 2) if they would be left alone by the campers. For two years there was no sign of them. In fact, earlier this year I looked for them again with no success. The good news is that one is growing and did bloom this year. The bad news is that it got knocked down before two of its three flowers bloomed. There is a chance that they will still bloom if the stalk has not been severed.
The lesson to be learned is that there will be failures as well as successes. It was unreasonable to expect that we could plant Lemon lilies, leave them unattended, and have them bloom the following year. Even when planting mature plants that have bloomed previously it may take those plants some time to become established in their new environment before they will be ready to bloom again.
We can mitigate some problems such as not planting near gopher mounds. However, streambeds are dynamic, and it is difficult to anticipate what they will look like from year to year let alone a decade from now.
In a low precipitation year with record heat when streambeds are nearly dry the lilies are still blooming. In a populated area the biggest threat to the lilies remains people and not nature. Still, I remain optimistic as before that there are better days ahead for the Lemon lilies in Idyllwild, but we have our work cut out for us.