Lilies have fascinated gardeners for over 3,000 years and continue to attract a dedicated band of devotees. It takes time, patience and a great deal of knowledge to build up an extensive collection of these bulbous plants and to grow them to perfection. The older species tend to be rather fussy about their requirements – some need lime whereas others hate it, and they are often prone to disease – L. candidum suffers badly from botrytis and L. auratum is extremely sensitive to virus attack.
So the majority of ordinary gardeners with no special love for the Lily regard it as adiff icult plant and leave it at that. It cannot be expected to produce abundant blooms in its first year and it will quickly rot if the soil is not free-draining. The fleshy bulbs packed in peat or wood shavings by the nurseryman must be planted as soon as they have been obtained – no wonder that the average gardener turns to the Tulip,and .
These days, however, the ‘hard-to-grow’ reputation for all Lilies isquite unfounded. During the past century a numberof hardy and tolerant species have been discovered and in the past 30 years the Hybrid Lilies have set new standards in flower size, vigour and disease resistance. Lilyvary froml in.tolftindiameterwithascentrangingfromdelightful to disagreeable. The colour range spans the whole floral spectrum with the exception of blue and the large variations in plant height make the modern-day Lily a suitable specimen for many parts of the garden. Dwarfs such as the 1 ft L. pumi-lum are excellent in the rock garden – the 8 ft giants like L. henryi belong at the back of the border. Between these two extremes are the vast majority of Lilies – 3-6 ft high and at home in the herbaceous border and shrubbery. Lily enthusiasts often grow them in a bed on their own, and by selecting the right varieties there are flowers to be seen and admired from May to October. There are woodland varieties like the Bellingham Hybrids which relish the dappled shade and humusy soil under trees and there are others, such as the ‘Empress of China’ which must be grown in under glass to protect them from the rigours of the weather. There is a Lily for practically every garden, but you will need both space and green fingers to become a serious Lily grower.
The petals flare open to produce a wide bowl. The flowers are usually large.
L. ’Imperial Gold’
L. ’Imperial Crimson’
L. ’Empress of China’
L. ’Crimson Beauty’
The petals are grouped together for part of the length of the flower to produce a basal tube.
L. ’Black Dragon’
The petals are rolled and swept back. The flowers are usually small.