Lilies for the rock-garden

Rock-gardens, practical and yet versatile, are becoming more and more popular all the time. A terraced rockery or small soil pockets placed between specially arranged, large, rugged stone boulders hold many more plants than a flat area of equal size. Even the smallest plants – those with trailing stems, mossy tufts and of dwarf creeping habit, including rosettes and small bulbs – can be put on display. Some plants stand erect, others trail over the stones – all attract the eye and are seen to their best advantage. Rockeries present a problem during the summer, when it is difficult to find suitable flowering plants to succeed the alpines, usually at their most colourful during the spring; but lilies can fill this gap and shine forth from between the stones during June and July.

The mountain lily, L. bitlbiferuni, produces wonderful orange-red splashes of colour during June, while orange and yellow-flowering saucer-shaped L. dauricum is nearly as effective. Another lily from the eastern steppes that is suitable for rockeries is L. concolor, star-saucered in shape, red or yellow in colour.

L. pumilum has scaling wax-red, spherical blooms on elegant pedicels, and the equally dwarf L. amabile from the Korean Diamond Mountains displays shiny orange-red or yellow flowers. L. pompon iuni from the Maritime Alps is useful, and loves the sun and stony ground; lilac-coloured L. cemuum from the Far East does better in semi-shade. L. formosanuin var. pricei, the dwarf form oiL.formosanum, produces 6-inch flowers on 12-16 inch long stems later in August. Its jewel-like flowers are finely formed, white trumpets, tinged bronze-red on the outside, with a yellow throat. L. lankongense, L. papilliferum, and L. wardii are some of the scarcer wild lilies from the Himalayas and China and, although eminently suitable for a rock-garden, they require dry loamy soils. L. lankongense needs plenty of room, and its roots wander in the soil before it sprouts through the ground. L. papilliferum comes from stony ground about 10,000 feet up in China.

Hybrid and tall-growing lilies have, of course, no place in a rockery, as their bright colours and exceptional height only lead to incongruity, but a place might perhaps be found for L. hansonii, the yellow Korean Turk’s Cap.

The staggered terraces and soil pockets of a rockery automatically provide the well-drained conditions which lilies, particularly the more delicate wild varieties, require. Heavy rain drains through quickly, and yet some moisture is preserved by the surrounding stones. Ground cover and companion plants need careful selection; also, if used, they must only be permitted to provide light cover, or slugs, so fond of new lily shoots, are sure to cause damage.

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