Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Lilies in the Summer Garden

Another joy of the exclusion of munching marsupials from the garden is the flowering of the late lilies – true lilies, or Lilium. Just as various Narcissus give us blooms all through winter and beyond (`Paperwhites’ in June, gold `Soleil d’Or’ in July, perfumed creamy `Erlicheer’ in August and sunny daffodils and glistening white pheasant’s eyes in September), so the lilies give us flowers from late spring until mid-summer.
My sister was asking me about the different types and although there are now more groups, I like to think of these branches of the family that have been in the gardening world, spreading their joy (and often their perfume) these many years.
Asiatic lilies (below) start the show in November, varying from pink, yellow, orange, to white and red, with short-stemmed, often spotted blooms that stare at the sky and look wonderful in a vase. Hardy, easy; a good bulb to plant in Victoria.

Christmas lilies (Lilium longiflorum, below) are next with their cool white trumpets, delicately scented (to me; they may be stronger to others), pale green in the centre of the flower. The slim trumpet ends with tips that roll back elegantly.

Similar but heftier are claret-backed Lilium regale and other trumpet types which – to me – lack the ethereal colour and delicate demeanor, yes, even when there are 10 blooms on a stalk of a Christmas Lily;  Lilium regale will bow over royally in the garden and I detest the appearance (and work) of stakes.
January brings Lilium auratum varieties (below, bred from the Golden-rayed Lily of Japan) from white, gold-banded white, pale pink to deepest pink and outrageous cerise. Lightly perfumed, these can be tall in the garden, up to 2m, and have a real presence.

Another lily to brave summer’s heat is the Tiger Lily, Lilium tigrinum (below). If you are reading this, then the chances are good that you have seen this tangerine lily with reflexed petals, in an old garden; in an abandoned Australian garden it may be the last survivor (although silver Wormwood and pink autumn-blooming Belladonna Lilies may be keeping it company).
There are about 80 species and who knows - 1000s of varieties? But the main bulb companies show the colours well in their catalogues and sell new varieties each year; I might buy a couple that complement the garden where the bulb will have shade and the flower can reach into the sun and they should flourish.
And I have just broken the rules (it’s only slightly more expensive, though); I’ve bought a flowering pot of delicious moonlight lilies (top), a tiger lily cross I’m told. It will enhance my Sun and Sky bed wonderfully. That’s what it’s about.

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