These well known garden delights form a genus of around 100 species native to the temperate and mountainous areas, of Europe, North America and Japan. The largest number of species can be found in China and the Himalayas. Lilies have long been associated with religious beliefs dating back as far as the Egyptian’s who believed them to have sacred properties. The Madonna lily for example was the sacred flower of the ‘The Virgin Mary’ and other Renaissance paintings show this lily to be a sign of purity. Interestingly it is said that the Romans used the leaves of the Madonna Lily as a healing agent from Scorpion stings through to child-birth (we wouldn’t want to try this!). Whereas in Greek mythology the lily was said to be the flower of Zeus’s wife Hera. It is thought to have been ‘BC’ that the first liliums were cultivated by the Cretans. They have been extensively cultivated and hybridized in the 20th century, producing many fascinating and often hardier garden and commercial varieties.
Lilium flowers are very diverse in both colour and form allowing a greater variety of choice. Blooms are six petalled and can be cup, bowl, trumpet or reflexed in their shape and are often scented. These blooms borne at the top of the stem can be upright, outward facing or nodding. Stems can be from 30cm to 3metres depending on the variety. Leaves vary from grass like foliage to broader elongated ones that are either scattered up the stem or arranged in ‘whorls’ (a perfect ring of leaves around the stem). Bulbs are made up of fleshy scales attached to the basal plate from which the roots appear. They are either concentric (where bulb holds the same shape and offspring are produced around the basal plate) or rhizomatous (where the offspring are borne at the end of a ‘branch’ grown out from the mother bulb).
Lilies require a rich very well drained loamy soil, preferably with an easterly aspect with protection from hot afternoon sun, this will also keep the root area cool. Bulbs should be planted about 10cm deep and 20cm apart to give them plenty of room to naturalize. When planting, the soil should be enriched with a complete fertiliser or blood and bone, it should be noted that some species prefer a very alkaline soil. They require water at least once a week during active growing period from November to the end of January. However it is important that liliums are never left water-logged. Mulching around the bulbs will help retain the moisture and keep root zone cooler.
Lilies can be propagated from seed (only species will come true to parental type), offsets from main bulb and in some varieties bulbils found in the leaf axis. If you are game ‘scaling’ the main bulb can produce small bulbils when these scales are placed in damp peat and kept in a warm, position. The cupboard above the stove serves as a great spot for us!!
There are many different types of Lilium hybrids and cultivars divided into many groups. We are offering true species as well as some other classes of liliums. These classes include Asiatics which come from a large gene pool of L. amabile, L. bulbiferum, L. dauricum and L.lancifolium (syn L. tigrium) to name a few. Therefore an extensive range of colours and variation have been produced. Asiatic varieties come in up-facing flowers, outward- facing flowers or pendant flowers, and they are used extensively in the florist trade worldwide. The asiatics we are offering have all been hybradised by Bryan Tonkin over a number of years. Auratum and Speciosum are a group of cultivars hybradised from L.aratum and or L.speciosum. Aurelain and Regale liliums have originated from the cross pollination of L.regale, L.sulphureum or L.sargentiae X L.henryi and lastly Orienpets, this group are a combination of the Chinese trumpet lilies and the Oriental liliums of Japan.
These liliums have originated from the cross pollination of L.regale, L.sulphureum or L.sargentiae X L.henryi
Lilies are such an exceptional addition to any garden and can be very rewarding. One of Bryan’s favourite liliums was the species Lilium wardii. He always admired its’ grace and beauty. When this beautiful lilium flowers we are forever reminded that a little part of the great man is with us. Both of us now have a real love and respect for the species especially the reflexed types. Nature has a magical way of producing many things that should not be lost or tampered with!
Available May to August