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Lilium Specialists

The Lily Nook - Barrie Strohman

"The Lily King"
Aug 12th, 1930 - July 23rd, 2010

    To understand how the Lily Nook came to be one has to be aware of the events that led up to the business being formed. This all had its start over forty years ago. At that time I was a building contractor and owned Strohman Construction. We built homes farm and commercial buildings as well as home renovations, cabinets and store renovations in the Neepawa and surrounding area. I needed a hobby that I could turn to so that I could relax and unwind at the end of the day and on the weekends. As I had grown up on a farm a large vegetable and fruit orchard was a necessity of which I was the custodian weed eradicator. Also as my grandmother and grandfather Strohman enjoyed a vast perennial garden I was made acquainted with the flowers and their plant names. Logically I turned to gardening as a hobby. Thus I would peruse the seed and plant catalogs to see what I could grow. I became enamored with the beautiful pictures of the lilies and would order some bulbs. They arrived a little dried out but I would plant them and they might give me a bloom or two the first year but nothing appeared the second year. They were supposed to be perennials and I had seen some lilies in grandmother’s garden so I wondered what in the world that I was doing wrong. In discussing my problem with Alice Moger at a horticultural meeting she said “Barrie, those are oriental lilies and are not fully hardy for the prairies”. Alice who was a teacher and who had tutored our children, graciously invited me to her lily garden and in a space the size of the back yard of a city lot there were lilies of all heights sizes and colours. Years ago she had obtained some early or old lilies from Skinner and Porter along with some of the Isabella Preston hybrids. From these few lilies she had crossed, back crossed, and crossed their progeny which produced a veritable feast for my eyes. “You can do this also,” she said. Then the idea hit me for here could be the hobby for which I was searching. I had taken a genetic course during my days at the University of Manitoba and had the basic information that I would require. So I purchased a few lily varieties to observe how they grew, to see which the stronger ones were and to see which ones did well in our prairie climate and conditions. The next year I got a few more, then a few more until now I have over two thousand named varieties with which I can use in my hybridizing work. It was fortunate that my father left me the farm at Hallboro where I had been born. It was here that we started planting out the lilies as well as the two to three thousand seedlings a year that were the result of my hybridizing efforts.
    
In 1972 we bought my grandfather’s house and moved it to the six acre property that we had purchased from Jim Farough. This was on Highway 5 and was two and a half miles (four kilometers) south of Neepawa. Here we renovated and modernized the home and started to landscape. We moved our family from town that fall and named our property “The Nook”. My great grandfather on my mother’s side owned property in Scotland called “The Nook” and I was in line to inherit it. However Grandfather Fleming sold it, so in order to keep a bit of history alive we called our home “The Nook”. In due course as the business evolved it became known as “The Lily Nook”.
    
Because of my collection of lilies and because of the growing interest in lilies many people would stop in to view them till we had cars lined up and down the highway on lily weekends. It was at this time in 1990 that I retired from construction and looked forward to relaxing among the lilies. A change was in the offing for Strohman Construction as Nigel did not want to continue in the building business. At the time of my retirement Nigel had purchased the name Yellowhead Nurseries from Ron and Lorna Elliott and moved it into our building on highway #16. He erected a greenhouse and proceeded to sell bedding plants, perennials, trees and shrubs and garden supplies.
     At this time my bother-in-law, Raymond McAllister phoned from
England with the words, “It’s about time you did something about those lilies.” A family conference took place. As I was now retired it was decided that Nigel would take on this project. Thus the Lily Nook as a business was formed .Ray came over from England and he and Nigel sat down and designed the first catalog. They found a printer, Leech’s printing of Brandon and had 4000 catalogs printed. These were mailed out to folks belonging to lily societies. The format of the catalog has remained the same except the content has increased. This is a mail order catalog and is the only one of its kind in Canada that offers only lilies.
    The first year we shipped into every province in
Canada as well as the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Also in the first year of business we shipped to every state in United states. Sales have been expanded to overseas so that our bulbs are shipped to many countries. In time the lily business grew to the point where Nigel sold the Garden centre and increased capacity for lily production and sales at the Lily Nook. Because of the increased demand for lilies the business was expanded to have cold storage capacity and the growing fields have been increased to ten acres. With the cold storage and with the import of newer varieties we now have the ability to ship both in the spring and the fall. Nigel has five workers hired for the summer months for planting, weeding and digging of bulbs. Nigel, Joyce and I look after the packaging and shipping of about 2000 orders a year about equally divided between spring and fall mailings. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspects the growing fields when the lilies are in bloom and inspects all shipments of bulbs destined overseas and to the United states issuing phytosanitary certificates for these orders. The business is now entering its fifthteen season.
    Since the first catalog Nigel now designs all aspects of each years offerings. He also has developed his own web site and offers lilies for sale on the internet. The Lily Nook has expanded parking areas and has erected washrooms and a sales area for the many visitors. In the growing fields drip irrigation has been installed so that first or prime quality bulbs are produced. The growing fields are open to the public for viewing for the bloom period in July.
   
Because the Lily Nook has become a tourist attraction we now have up to 10,000 people visiting here from July to mid August to see the lilies in bloom and to see which ones that they might order. As a result of demand we now pot up over 4000 lilies that people take home to plant out or enjoy seeing them bloom in pots. Tour bus companies bring in numerous bus loads of people to see the lilies so bus parking has been expanded to accommodate three buses at a time and of course making our summers quite busy. We also have a gift shop and canteen which offer many unique lily gifts and souvenirs for visitors to purchase as a gift or remembrance. The canteen offers cold drinks and ice cream treats for sale.
   
I still have remained retired and look after the hybridizing and research part of the business, officially known as the resident hybridizer.

   Three years after the Lily Nook opened its doors during our busy time when there was a lot of activity a lady from Neepawa Eleanor Nicholson came out and was amazed to see all the activity and the interest in the lilies. She said to me “Barrie every town in Manitoba seems to have a festival, why couldn’t Neepawa have a lily festival.” I said “go for it” and she did. But that’s another story.



The LILY NOOK - Box 846 - Neepawa, MB - R0J 1H0 CANADA
Comments or Questions? mailto:info@lilynook.mb.ca

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