Lily festival now blooming atop David Hill Road
Since 2012, Parry's Tree Farm has been hosting the largest lily festival this side of the Mississippi just outside Forest Grove. For this, their seventh year, the farm will present a one-of-a-kind lily called the Last Dance.
At the top of windy David Hill Road just north of Forest Grove, pavement turns to gravel and a giant red barn signals the nearby entrance to the tree farm. Up a steep drive littered with Christmas trees you will find Parry's Tree Farm — and Parry's Tree Farm Lily Festival. From July 18 to Aug. 11, the farm will be showcasing 20,000 to 30,000 garden-tested calla lilies, day lilies, oriental lilies, Asiatic lilies, tiger lilies and orienpet lilies. Several other items will be offered for sale as well.
According to Kenn Parry, the festival's owner and operator, the event started quite by accident.
"I started growing them for fun and for my friends and then people started liking them so much I just had to start selling all the extra ones," Parry said.
The first year proved to be a huge success, but Parry had yet to work out his method. "That first year we did the lily fest we wrote everything down and that turned into a nightmare really fast," said Parry. "After selling about 15,000 bulbs we realized it wasn't going to be easy."
Since then the farm has moved its sales function over to a website that handles orders automatically. The festival has grown from its original few varieties to over 250 different kinds and colors.
Every year Parry orders new bulbs directly from expert lily growers in Holland. This year the farm received roughly 35,000 individual bulbs packed to the brim in special refrigerated shipping containers.
"When we order bulbs every year, my wife has to put handcuffs on me." Kenn confessed. "I have to over-order, though, because, come shipping time, not all of the bulbs turn out. Still, the amount I end up ordering shocks my wife sometimes."
One of the varietals not from Holland is Last Dance, a flower bred by Parry himself. Although he "love(s) making new varieties and sharing them with everyone," he noted the lily breeding process is long and arduous. New breeds of lilies must be isolated for four or more years and can sometime spontaneously revert to one of their predecessors, nullifying all of those years of work in a single season.
Parry said he enjoyed experimenting with the breeding process but added this year will be the last to purchase some of his original strains, including the fragrant and freckled Last Dance. "I'm not a botanist or a scientist," said Parry, "so I'll leave that up to people who make a living making new lilies."
Does Parry have a favorite lily after growing for so long?
"They are all my favorite type," he said. "I would have to say I like the Asian kinds. They give you a multitude of colors and of those my favorite would have to be the Red Eye." The Red Eye lily is a huge fire-engine-red flower with large burgundy spots and a white edge. The oriental variety Red Eye belongs to is the most popular form of true lilies, according to Parry. Starting to appear in late July, they will be the blooms to look forward to in the latter half of the Lily Fest since they flourish throughout the month of August.
A handy tip for gardeners: the farm also sells deer-repelling stakes. The stakes contain a pungent concoction of garlic and are said to repel deer for an entire planting season.
Everyone is invited to come view more than 250 different colors of lilies at the farm Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and enjoy catering from Diversity Café Friday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.
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