A couple of years ago, Art Delahey, founding member of CPLS and longtime CPLS Treasurer donated his collection of slides of Patterson lilies to CPLS. We had these slides converted to digital format so they could be more easily used and safely preserved. Art was a student of Dr. Patterson’s in the 1950's and grew many of Patterson’s hybrids at his acreage at Riverside Estates. With the exception of the photo of ‘Jasper’ below, all photos included in this article are from Art’s collection. A testament to lily longevity, ‘Jasper’ was hybridized around 1940 and was introduced in 1949. The photo at right is from the CPLS show in 2013.

Dr. Cecil F. Patterson

lily JasperDr. Patterson was born in Ontario in 1892. He grew up on the family farm near Watford, and had a keen interest in horticulture from the time he was very young. Hours spent hoeing and weeding ensured that young Cecil knew the value of hard work as a means to attaining his goals. Patterson was a studious boy who graduated from high school at the young age of 13. After several years spent working on the family farm, he entered Ontario College of Agriculture at the age of 21, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1918.

Dr. Patterson chose a path not often taken at the time for Agriculture graduates, and continued his education, first obtaining a Masters degree and then his doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1921. With this education, several career opportunities were available to him. The opportunity which he chose was to become the head of the newly formed Department of Horticulture at the University of Saskatchewan. His duties there included teaching, administration and research.

A keen interest in developing plants which would be hardy for prairie conditions led Dr. Patterson to work first with fruit trees and later with vegetables and ornamentals. Patterson’s work with lilies began in the early 1930's and continued until his death.

seedling original pinkAs well as the goal of developing hardy lilies for the prairies, Patterson also hoped to introduce a much wider range of colors than was available at the time. The color range at the time was mostly restricted to orange, so there was lots of room for diversity. By introducing the nodding lily, Lilium cernuum into his breeding program, he hoped to produce lilies in the pink and white color range. In 1937, he crossed L. cernuum which is pink, with L. davidii var. willmottiae, which is reddish orange, spotted black. A selected seedling from this cross, 37-538-1 bloomed pink.

Patterson describes the development of this seedling in the 1955 North American Lily Society Yearbook. He comments “A cross (L. davidii willmottiae x L.cernuum) made in 1937 proved to be very useful in the attainment of one of the objectives of the project. The seedlings resulting from this cross were typically L.davidii in characteristics, excepting in one case where the foliage was similar to that of L. cernuum and the flower was mauve pink in color. This seedling is a much stronger grower than is the plant of L. cernuum and produces up to thirty flowers to a plant, where plants of L. cernuum seldom produce more than five or six flowers under Saskatchewan conditions. This seedling was designated 37-538-1. It has been used as a parent with a wide variety of material and it has proved to be a good parent. From it have descended a long line of seedlings with a variety of flower coloring. Seedlings with flowers from white through the creams to deep golden yellow and from white through the pinks to deep rose red have been obtained. The prominent dark spots found in L. davidii are present in some of the seedlings while in others they are much less prominent and in some cases they are almost absent.”

Edith Cecilia asiatic lily lemon queen asiatic lily primrose lady asiatic lily white princess asiatic lily

Though seedling 37-538-1 proved to be completely infertile as a pod parent, it was very fertile as a pollen parent. As Dr. Patterson describes above, many crosses were made with it, which resulted in several introductions, including ‘White Princess, ‘Rose Dawn’, ‘White Gold’, ‘Edith Cecilia’, and ‘Lemon Queen’. Most of these introductions were infertile aneuploids, but two, ‘Edith Cecilia’ and ‘Lemon Queen’ were fertile and were used extensively in further hybridizing. ‘Edith Cecilia’, Dr. Patterson’s most important and probably best known hybrid was the result of a cross of seedling 37-538-1 with L. davidii ‘Oriole’. ‘Lemon Queen’ was the result of a cross of 37-538-1 with ‘Grace Marshall’, one of Isabella Preston’s Stenographer lily series.

apricot glow asiatic lily laura patterson asiatic lily tiger queen asiatic lily william white asiatic lily

These two fertile hybrids were crossed with each other at Oregon Bulb Farms to produce a strain of lilies in a wide variety of colors which was named the Harlequin hybrids. Several of these hybrids were selected and introduced, including the pollen-free, outfacing, pink ‘Corsage’, which is still commercially available at this time.

In the mid 1960's, also at Oregon Bulb Farms,the first up-facing pastel colored lilies which would become commercially available were produced. These were the result of crosses made between the upright facing Mid Century hybrids and second-generation pastels derived from crosses using ‘Edith Cecilia’ and ‘Lemon Queen’. The Mid-Century hybrids were Asiatic hybrids produced in the 1930's and 1940's at Oregon Bulb Farms, using any and all Asiatic hybrid material available at the time.

Mrs. Laura Patterson with her namesake lilyAt right, is Cecil Patterson’s wife Laura, posing with her namesake lily ‘Laura Patterson’. This lily, and ‘Snow Drop’ were two of several which were registered after Dr. Patterson’s death in 1962.

asiatic lily Snow DropEd McRae, in his book Lilies, A Guide for Growers and Collectors comments that “The introduction of Lilium cernuum into the Asiatic hybrids was undoubtedly one of the most important breakthroughs in lily breeding in the twentieth century, opening up exciting prospects. There are now many upright lilies in the pink, peach, cream and white ranges; most if not all of these can be traced back to ‘Edith Cecilia’.”

Over thirty of Dr. Patterson’s lily hybrids were named and introduced, most during his lifetime and a few after his death. While many of Dr. Patterson’s lilies have been lost over time, there are a few, such as ‘Jasper’ (1949), ‘Snow Drop’ (1969), ‘Apricot Glow’ (1949), ‘Rose Dawn’ (1951) and ‘Honey Queen’ (1969) that still thrive in home gardens or at the CPLS lily plot at the University of Saskatchewan.

by B. Adams-Eichendorf (CPLS Newsletter March 2018)


Lilies: A Guide for Growers and Collectors, Edward Austin McCrae; In A Cold Land, Sara Williams; “Who Was Cecil F. Patterson?” article by Roger Vick, The Lily Yearbook of the North American Lily Society 1955.