FIRST the not-so-good news . . . not all lilies are fragrant. Now the best news of all . . . all lilies are majestic, magnificent and truly exquisite, whether or not they tantalise the nostrils.
As a basic rule of thumb, the Asiatics are scentless while the Orientals are bursting with aromas – some almost intoxicating, so sniff with care! There are many others, including Trumpet, American and Martagon hybrids.
Many devotees will argue that lilies are the stars of the bulb world, lavish in looks with their big, bold trumpets and combining the very essence of sophistication.
I’m reminded of an old Chinese proverb: “If you have only two coins left, spend one on bread and the other on a lily”.
That says it all. Our Oriental friends adored lilium and its numerous species and hybrids, spread across nine divisions, and it’s easy to see why.
I was wandering around my local Wilko store the other day when I spotted a pack of two lily bulbs of Asiatic variety London Heart.
The picture certainly provoked a Wow from me, showing its coat of burnt orange and near-black speckled centre, to be borne from mid-June to July on 3ft 6in stems.
When I Googled for further info, I was escorted to Hart’s Nursery from Congleton, Cheshire, who later kindly sent me their own picture of this home-reared stunner, along with images of two other newbies raised from the skills of their pollen-dusting exploits.
This specialist nursery is a third generation family-run affair, achieving a host of gold medals throughout years of exhibiting, as well as 14 golds at Chelsea for their succession of colourful lily fanfares.
To top things off during a highly successful 2019, Hart’s were presented with the coveted President’s Award at Chelsea, followed by a feature on BBC Gardeners’ World about their company and exhibit at Tatton Park.
So it goes without saying that Hart’s know their onions when it comes to lilies!
Bear in mind that lilies don’t start and end with Stargazer, perhaps the nation’s favourite in glowing pink with maroon spots and deliciously scented.
There are countless others out there in every horticultural hue save blue. For sheer perfume power, let your nose be wooed by the Regal Lily – regale – with fabulous funnels in white tinged maroon and further enhanced by a yellow throat, often towering to 6ft.
The Madonna Lily – Lilium candidum – can carry up to 20 highly spiced white blooms – this one enjoys lime-rich soil – while the huge vibrant gold trumpets of African Queen and lofty purplish-red and white Black Dragon are very sniffable members of the Trumpet hybrid group.
If you don’t mind missing out on aromas try asiatics Cavalia in yellow, Hilux in pale pink, the pearly white Signum, the spectacular Stracciatella Event in burgundy and white speckles, its sister Chocolate Event in a blend of chocolate burgundy and peachy orange, Sterling Star with cup-shaped white flowers peppered with tiny maroon spots, Enchantment in orange-red with black throats, Connecticut King in radiant yellow and Black Beauty in deep red with white margins.
We really are spoiled for choice!
▲Lilies don’t mind the cold but they resent getting their bulbs wet so make sure soil is well-drained and, preferably, humus-rich.
▲ They will tolerate shade, but at least half a day’s sunshine will be optimum.
▲ Bulbs planted in the garden should be spaced 8in apart, with 3ft between groups and to a depth of 4in to 6in.
▲ If planting in pots, it’s worth tilting these on their sides in winter to prevent waterlogging.
▲ The scarlet Lily Beetle is the arch-enemy, as are its larvae which cover themselves in black excrement. Both munching menaces appear as if from nowhere and can devastate whole plants. Pick off and squash or use a prevention spray stocked by Hart’s Nursery.
▲ Beware of the bright orange pollen, for if it gets on clothing it’s almost impossible to shift. It’s best to snip off the stamens straight into a paper bag. Blooms will last longer too. Do keep them away from cats as the sacs can prove fatal if ingested.
▲ At signs of growth, feed lilies with a tomato feed every three weeks, utilising half the recommended dilution for toms.
▲ Find Hart’s Nursery at www.hartsnursery.co.uk or phone 07855 785540.
▲ Sumptuous: From top – London Heart, Stracciatella Event, Chocolate Event, a cluster of golden lilies from my garden, variety unknown but possibly Connecticut King.