Li Hum regale

Lilium regale has such an exotic beauty that it is difficult to believe that it is one of the easiest lilies to grow. Admiring its stately height, marvelling at its pure white. Trumpet flowers with yellow in the throat and wine-red shading on the back of the petals, and drinking in its overpowering scent, you would imagine that this bulb needed infinite cosseting. In fact, it is fully hardy, happy in any well-drained soil, whether acid or alkaline, dislikes rich food, and in most gardens increases fast. It flowers soon after mid-summer. All it asks is sun and the backing of a wall or shrubs to protect it from wind. I give it pride of place over the equally beautiful madonna lily, L candidum, which has been known to civilization for thousands of years, because the madonna lily is erratic, and may die out in a garden for no obvious reason.

The bulbs of L regale should be planted fairly deeply, about 8 inches (20 cm) below the surface. 12 inches (30 cm) apart, and it takes at least six to make a substantial group. If there is no protecting wall, then a shrub with dark, glossy leaves, like Viburnum x burkwoodii, makes an excellent background, and I think that modest, uncompetitive plants with soft blue flowers make the best companions. Three plants of Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’, a large herbaceous plant some 3 feet (90 cm) in height and spread, would make a semi-circle in front of a group of L re| and would continue in flower when the lilies were over.

The origin of L regale is romantic, for as far as is known it grows wild in only one place in the world, in a river valley in remotest north-west China. Here it was discovered growing in tens of thousands in 1903 by the greatest of all plant collectors, E.H. Wilson.

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