In April, a lily expert from the top ranks of the North American lily world is coming to Kansas City to discuss the delight and wonder of growing lilies.
Art Evans from Gravette, Ark., plans to present a program titled, Lily Addiction: Not That Bad, Really!
He plans to talk about the magnetic attraction of form, fragrance, and color of lilies and how they complement the garden as a whole. He will discuss how to grow and show lilies, and touch on “juggling genes for fun,” or hybridizing lilies.
Evans has been growing and hybridizing lilies for decades and he has served on the board of the North American Lily Society. In fact, in 2019 NALS bestowed on him its highest honor, the E.H. Wilson Award.
Legendary lily hybridizer Judith Freeman, owner of The Lily Garden and its associated companies, nominated him for the E.H. Wilson Award on the basis of his work as a NALS officer, judge, engaging instructor, leading research fund raising, and his extensive lily hybridizing. He has been a pioneer in embryo culturing and in inducing and using tetraploids.
“His emphasis from the very beginning of his hybridizing work on lilies that are truly disease resistant is supremely important. I continue to use his strongest tetra Asiatics, his wonderful late-flowering aurelians, and his magnificent orienpets in my own breeding lines, confident of their staying power as well as their beauty and usefulness in the garden,” Freeman wrote.
He is a familiar sight at NALS International Lily Shows and Symposia, not only exhibiting lilies but also creating photographic portraits of every winner.
Evans says he comes from a long line of row crop farmers.
“Digging came naturally, but gardening made me one with the Earth,” he said. “The first lilies bloomed for me in 1961, and I was amazed.”
So he sought out Dr. Victor Watts, head of horticulture and forestry at the University of Arkansas , and worked for him as a research assistant. Watt suggested joining the North American Lily Society in 1965.
“Their publications, and later their friendships, set the hook. I knew what my avocation would be, no matter where I landed after college,” Evans said.
He and his wife, Crow, attended their first NALS International Show and Symposium in 1987 when it was in Portland, Ore.
“Also in the ’80s, I became less content to just buy commercial cultivars and started trying to create better garden lilies by hybridizing with those which prospered in the challenging climate of the South,” Evans said. “If successful, the world will be a little more beautiful than it was before.”
Evans is a dentist by trade. It facilitated his love of gardening, living in the country, working in a small town and yet had easy enough access to the world at large.
He also has interest in orchids, photography, backpacking, rattlesnake rassling, whitewater canoeing, conservation activism, and international birding.