Grumpy goes to the lily show



I spent several hours serving as host during our show at Brookside Gardens  in June. I enjoy seeing the reaction of visitors – typically one of real surprise - as they enter the exhibition hall. Yes, it can be a real surprise. It’s not unusual to hear a gasp of pleasure as they take in the sight of so many beautiful lilies arrayed before them. It’s a fact of human nature that our sense of sight is our dominant sense, and so it’s not surprising that the visual impression is the first to be expressed. That’s a given, but what sometimes happens next isn’t: after they have caught their breath, some visitors then comment on the wonderful aroma which pervades the exhibition hall.


Not everyone likes scented flowers; in particular, the heavier scents of flowers such as lilies bother some people indoors. Years ago at one of the national shows I attended a discussion of lily hybridization. Someone asked for suggestions about things towards which hybridists might strive. I volunteered “scent”, as in scented Asiatic hybrids. There was an immediate outburst as many people around the room challenged the idea that lilies need to be scented. Others made it clear that scented flowers were actively disliked by some people when cooped up in hospital or domestic sick rooms.  


With this in mind, I’m never surprised when a rare visitor to the show actually complains about the scent of the lilies. It happened once this year. After hearing so many visitors express delight at the scent of the lilies in the exhibition hall, it came as a rude shock to hear one man express himself rather bluntly on the subject.


He had come into the exhibition hall with his wife; no doubt it was her idea to visit the show. As they walked in, she lit up at the sight of the hall, and immediately commented on the fragrance of the lilies. He just stood there looking grumpy and bored. Attendance at that time was light, and as I often do, I volunteered to take them around the show and point out things of interest. The wife was delighted at this prospect; Grumpy seemed to be mentally calculating how much longer this would prolong the visit.


My impression was that they were new to lilies, so I stuck to the highlights – the biggest, the most colorful, the eye catchers. Among those were those amazing ninety-cent Costco orienpets Dave Wilmore exhibited. Those flowers were huge and had the texture of kid skin – one of them was the biggest lily flower I had ever seen. The wife was taking it all in with evident pleasure when Grumpy bent down to get a good sniff of the bloom. “Isn’t it delightful” she exclaimed. “If you ask me” Grumpy mumbled, “it smells like a urinal”.


Well, I never: for once I didn’t know what to say. The wife was mortified and hastily thanked me for the tour and hustled Grumpy out to the car. He seemed really pleased to have truncated the visit. The last I heard he was saying “Let’s go get something to eat”.


Who would have thought that anything as beautiful as a lily could provoke such a response? Life is full of little surprises, isn’t it?