Monday, 3 August 2015



It is hard to beat lilies when you want that heady exotic scent, especially the oriental lilies. They are also relatively easy to grow as long as you give them a well drained fertile soil and a sunny position. They are perfect in pots and tubs placed on patios where the large scented flowers can be enjoyed, but be careful of the pollen which can stain hands and clothes.
Lilies cover a whole range of plants some of which may not be true lilies such as arum and calla lilies, Lily of the valley, African lilies and the day lily.
Many such as the African lily, the arum lily, calla lily coming from southern Africa and the day lily coming from China, Japan and Korea are not true lilies, but enjoy much the same conditions, whereas Lily of the valley is an herbaceous perennial coming from Europe.

Many of these lilies such as the white Arum lily, Zantedescia aethiopica can become almost naturalised, but unlike other lilies it prefers wet boggy ground. The arum lily is quite hardy, but the Calla lily which likes the same conditions comes in a range of bright colours and is not so hardy.
The blue coloured African lily, Agapanthus is not so hardy so is best in pots which can be partially dried off in winter and stored in a cool but frost free place. They will take some frost, but not a severe or wet winter. They can go outdoors under a sheltered south facing wall.
The Day lilies, Hemerocallis are hardy and have been very popular with plant breeders so there are very many varieties (over 35,000) of all colours to choose from. Each flower may only last one day, but there are so many that they still make a great display.
True lilies are often grouped into Orientals or Asiatics. These are all grown from bulbs. Some bulbs produce roots at the base so as a guide when planting take out a hole twice the depth of the bulb. Those lilies that also grow roots from the base of the flower stems should be planted a lot deeper.
The oriental lilies will grow up to five feet tall but require an acid soil which is fertile and very well drained. The taller types will need support to hold up the stems as the large flowers can be a fair weight and prone to damage by strong winds. If you do not have an acidic soil they are best in tubs using an ericaceous compost with added horticultural grit to improve drainage. Always add some grit to the base of the planting hole. These lilies are mostly highly scented, whereas the Asiatic lilies have almost no scent. The asiatics prefer an alkaline soil, so some lime prior to planting is helpful. They grow up to two feet tall.
The Madonna lily, Lilium candidum, grows about four feet tall producing large white scented flowers. Do not plant this one deep as the contractile roots will pull the bulbs down to the correct depth. It is a bit prone to botrytis in damp areas.
The regal lily, Lilium regale, is one of the commonest lilies, but very popular as it is easy to grow, quite reliable with highly scented large white flowers.

Another very popular lily is lilium Enchantment as it is another easy to grow variety but has no scent. It soon forms a large clump with dazzling orange flowers.
Lilium auratum from Japan is one of the tallest lilies growing up to eight feet tall so will need support, but it has fantastic heady perfume.

Wee jobs to do this week

Plants want to grow in summer as well as flower, so keep giving tubs, pots and hanging baskets a weekly feed to ensure they will continue to give value.
Chrysanthemums need continual disbudding for those grown as one flower per stem, but do not disbud spray chrysanthemums.
Once tomatoes reach the top of their supports and have about six or seven trusses take the tops out to stop growth and help ripen up the young bunches.


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