Star Gazer Lily

Leslie Woodriff is a horticultural legend, famous as a man who bred "Star Gazer" lily. Woodriff was broke, his health failing, and his house seemed to be on the verge of collapse. The Dutch growers made so much money from ‘Star Gazer,’ and I could not believe that he had so little.

What Leslie Woodriff did to his lilies is no different from what a bee or a butterfly would do: he brushed pollen from the stamen of one flower onto the stigma of another. There was no microscope, no gene splicing, not even a sterile environment. Woodriff, and breeders like him, interfered with the sexual activities of plants for one reason: a passion for flowers. He worked tirelessly to create new breeds of lilies because he was wildly in love with the flower and emboldened to push it to its limits, attempting to cross species that everyone else had declared incompatible. He hoped to make a living by breeding and selling lilies, but he was never a businessman. Leslie Woodriff was simply unable to do anything besides breed flowers.

Leslie Woodriff was a man in search of beauty and poetry. George told me that he always carried the image of the perfect lily in his head. He dreamed of a black lily and a blue lily. He was in search of a lily that broke all the rules, one that crossed all the boundaries that had previously held the genus back. An agricultural inspector once told Woodriff that he should not bother with brightly colored lilies because when people thought of lilies, they would always think of the white Easter lily, which was a sign of purity. Woodriff told him that his lilies were for people who were less than pure."

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