The lily is a flower of contradictions: it represents both life and death, appearing both at weddings and funerals. In their pure white form lilies are a symbol of innocence, chastity and purity of heart, but by contrast the highly fragrant and intensely coloured orange lilies symbolize passion. In Lily, Marcia Reiss explores these paradoxes, tracing the flower’s cultural significance in art, literature, religion and popular culture throughout history.
Reiss journeys from the tomb carvings of ancient Egypt to the paintings of Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe and Salvador Dalí, exploring the lily as a subject of fascination and obsession. She unearths many absorbing facts and fables about the blossom, and also examines its use in cuisine. A luxury in Western horticulture, lilies have been a source of food and medicine in China for centuries. While Reiss focuses her attention on true lilies and the ornamental hybrids breeders have derived from them, she also provides extensive information about a wide variety of popular lilies, including daylilies, lilies of the valley, water lilies and calla lilies. Filled with striking illustrations of these gorgeous plants, Lily is a book for gardeners and lily admirers alike.
Introduction: A Flower with Multiple Personalities
1 A Lily by Any Other Name
2 From the Ice Age to the Modern Age: The Journey of the True Lily
3 A Lily in Every Garden
4 Picturing Lilies
5 Milk, Sex and Blood: The Mythology of the Lily
6 As Pure as a Lily
7 The Sexiest Flower
8 Matters of Life and Death
9 Always Entertaining
10 A Lily a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
11 Lilies on Your Plate
Epilogue: A Journey to Shushan
Timeline of the Lily
Associations and Websites
Marcia Reiss is the author of many books on New York history and architecture. She has worked as a journalist, university professor, public official and advocate, and is an avid gardener.