Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The secret life of lilies

You probably think that you know what a lily is; tall stems with multiple heads of scented flowers that you often find in the florists' shop.
Daylily with hoverflies

You would be right of course, but the lily family, Liliaceae, is huge, and you might be surprised to hear that it includes tulips, asparagus, alliums and fritillaries. Even more surprising is that water lilies, daylilies and arum lilies are not members of the lily family.
Allium Senescens is a late-flowering ornamental onion that the bees love

Water lilies (Nymphaea) in the pond with a hungry fish

We grow several types of regular lily (Lilium) in pots. We leave them out over winter in their pots in a sheltered place, and when they start to produce flower buds we move the pots into position in the garden, or plant the lilies in the ground. 
Oriental lily

The pollen from lilies can stain your clothes and is also poisonous to cats, so I snip off the stamens when the flowers open. However, there are a growing number of pollen-free lilies available, some of which are scented.
Pollen-free lily

The daylily (Hemerocallis) used to be part of the lily family and is often still listed as part of Liliaceae. Whatever the correct categorisation, it is definitely my favourite of the plants that we call lilies. Each flower lasts only a day, but once a plant is established it produces numerous flower spikes full of buds, so you get a colourful display for 6 to 8 weeks. Most daylilies have slim, strappy foliage that emerges fresh green in early spring and remains looking good until winter. They come in all sizes and colours, and some have lovely perfume. I can always find room for another!
Daylilies are generally disease free, but the early flowering types attract a gall midge that lays its eggs in the flower buds and causes them to distort. The only method of dealing with this is to snap off the affected buds and destroy them (not on the compost heap).

The signs of a bud infected with gall midge

You can also eat the buds and young shoots of daylilies. There are many recipes on the internet, but I confess that I haven't tried any myself.

Also of interest in the garden at the moment - Angel's fishing rods (Dierama). I sowed seed 6 years ago of a dark purple variety and the plant has flowered this year for the first time. We planted it with a pink flowered variety that we bought in flower, but we have had to wait two years to see flowers again. Mingling together they look stunning by the pond - well worth the wait.
Angel's fishing rods (Dierama)

The hot bed, so-called because it is the sunniest part of the garden and also because of the bright flower colours in summer, with Crosmia Lucifer leading the show.

Our current to-do list

1. Planting - We have rather a lot of new plants bought at plant fairs at Chenies Manor and RHS Hyde Hall that need new homes.

2. Seed collecting - As seed heads dry I'm snipping them off into paper envelopes and leaving them to dry. This year I'm trying to remember to label them with the name and date to save a guessing game when I come to sow them in autumn or spring!

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