Gorgeous hybrid trumpet, Asiatic and oriental lilies highlight the summer garden, but let’s not overlook the naturally occurring species lilies, the foundation of all selectively bred hybrids. As well as having subtle charms, species lilies are often more resilient and vigorous than the cultivars.
The Turk’s cap, for example, is little known but comes in a riot of colours, with tightly curving, reflexed petals and long slender anthers. The blooms are small, about two inches (five centimetres) long, but they occur in great profusion. The downside is that they are seldom as beautifully scented as hybrid lilies.
Here are a few in the Turk’s cap family to consider for your garden next year.
Lilium martagon produces tiers of flowers like a candelabra in early July. It’s naturally variable, flowering in shades of white, pink and maroon. Once established, it grows to more than six feet (two metres) tall, making it a focal point in the garden.
- pardalinum, commonly known as the leopard lily, reaches more than six feet (two metres) if it has adequate moisture, and produces dark red flowers with spotted orange throats. This impressive lily blooms to the end of summer.
- henryi can grow to a lofty eight to 10 feet (nearly three metres). Toward the end of July it drips with bright tangerine flowers with dark spots and raised, fleshy dimples. It’s tough and vigorous, but appreciates the support of nearby shrubs.
The tiger lily, L. lancifolium, peaks at just over three feet (about a metre). A reliable, easily grown lily, in late summer it produces an impressive pyramid of up to 20 pendant, reddish-orange blooms marked with dark purplish freckles.
- speciosum also flowers in late summer, with a bonus: an intoxicatingly sweet aroma. It has nodding, white pendant flowers suffused with dark pink and highlighted with rich crimson spots.
All lily bulbs, hybrids and species, lack a tough, protective skin and are prone to damage and drying, so it’s important to plant them as soon as possible after purchase. Select firm, succulent bulbs with no sign of decay.
Lilies are best planted in fall, but are most widely available in spring, If you’re planting species lilies next spring, wait till risk of frost has passed and soil is dry enough to work, and plant bulbs about two and a half times as deep as the bulb is high. If conditions aren’t right, plant them in containers and store in a cool, not freezing, location until you can plant in the ground.
Good drainage is crucial. Ideally, the soil should be both free draining and moisture retentive. To achieve this, incorporate coarse grit and bulky organic matter such as composted bark or leaf mould.
Lilies enjoy full sun, but partial shade may prolong flower life and prevent bleaching caused by intense sunlight. Planting in a border, where the base of the plant is shielded by neighbouring plants, is ideal.
Deadhead lilies as soon as they bloom to encourage bulb development, unless you wish to collect seeds. Allow the remaining stem to die back naturally.
As clumps become congested, the number of blooms are reduced. To divide the clump, carefully lift it and tease bulbs apart for replanting. Do this in autumn, giving bulbs time to become established before winter.