Planting Lilies

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Now is the perfect time to plant out lilies. It’s a quiet time in the garden right now so it’s nice to be able to take my time choosing which ones to buy. I have to admit that lilies aren’t my favourite flower; I really don’t like the ones that are so highly perfumed they give me a headache! However, after browsing a catalogue (one of my ultimate favourite past times!) I came to realise that there is more then one type of lily! It just goes to prove why I’m creating my cutting garden. Florists and supermarkets are very limited in the types of flowers they can offer. They rely on sturdy specimens that will survive transportation and being left in a box for 24 hours and most importantly they choose varieties that are guaranteed to sell. I’m looking forward to picking flowers that can’t be found in the florist, flowers that may only last a few days and flowers that might be a bit scruffy round the edge but have a charm all of their own. I’m also hoping for some really stunning perfect flowers you understand but you get my drift! In a world that only looks for the perfect, red tomato, the straightest, orange carrot and the perfect, blemish free rose I think we’re missing out on a multitude of  other things like taste, scent and old fashioned charm.

So, what lilies did I choose?  I started with the Double Oriental lily Soft Music. Double Oriental Lilies are just like Oriental lilies but without the pollen. Soft Music has palest pink frilled petals with green freckles and fragrance. I love pink and green together. While this variety is easy to grow lilies do take a couple of years to mature fully. I also chose Oriental Lily The Edge for a more subtle flower. It’s white with a pink border around the edge of the petals. Another type of lily is the Asiatic Lily. They are very hardy and easy to grow and require little staking. I chose the variety Double Elodie for it’s beautiful pink double flowers and it’s very light scent. It doesn’t have anthers or pollen so makes very little mess once cut. It also has a long vase life. Apparently this lily may well bloom as a single in it’s first year and then double in subsequent years. My fourth choice was a classic white LA Hybrid Lily with little black freckles. Now these lilies sound as if they are grown in LA in America (well that’s what I thought when I first saw them) but in fact they are a cross between the asiatic lily and the Longiflorum lily; as a result they have stronger stems, larger flower heads and longer vase life. Ticks a lot of boxes and just imagine it teamed with zingy lime green Bells of Ireland, Zinnia Green Envy and Ammi Majus with perhaps a pop of orange….. I’m getting ahead of myself a bit…. Finally I went a bit crazy and chose a Lilium Speciosum Tiger Lily. This unusual lily has bright orange-red petals with purple freckles that fold back on themselves. It’s very vigorous and grows to 1.5m with more than a dozen blooms per plant.

Top Tips for planting and cutting lilies

Plant your lily bulbs straight away otherwise they may well dry out. Plant them quite deep in good friable soil without any manure. You can use bulb food to give them a good start. Plant the stake with the bulbs to avoid disturbing or damaging roots late on. Just leave them in peace and they will gather strength and bloom year after year.

Feed your lily every three months by side dressing with bulb food to encourage bud development.

Once flowering has finished leave the flower on the plant. All energy will then be directed straight into the bulb for beautiful strong flowers next year. Only cut the flower off at ground level once it’s turned completely brown. It doesn’t pay to be too tidy when gardening!

Pick lilies just as the buds are beginning to open. Always leave at least 1/3 of the stem behind so that the bulbs will be nourished for next year. Once the flower has opened snip the stamens to remove the pollen. Pollen can stain clothes and furniture permanently. Some lilies have more pollen than others.

Here are some of my lilies getting put to bed in anticipation spectacular things next season!

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The bulbs are very like garlic with their separate cloves or bulblets.

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I’m getting into my tape measuring stride and planted them about 6 cm apart in a triangle. It’s recommended to plant lilies in groups of 3 or 5 for best effect.

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Cover them with a good 10cm of soil and water in.

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I’m using brightly painted stakes for all my bulbs in the cutting garden so I know where they are when they’ve died down and I’m also planning on painting a chair to match so I can put my feet up and enjoy next summer – it’s all in the forward planning you see !

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Leucadendrons – stars of the foliage world

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The Leucadendron ‘Jenny Butler’ (pictured in the vase) has lived in my garden for the last three years; quietly establishing itself and putting down roots and largely being ignored. But recently it has mushroomed into a glorious resplendent vision complete with ruby red tipped stems that looked like flower petals. I felt compelled to pick some stems for a vase and marvelled that I could have overlooked this astonishing plant for so long. It’s just the kind of stem I love in a vase; architectural and a bit wilful. I love the way the stems bend carelessly this way and that yet they remain rigid and sit so well in a vase. Their vase life is extraordinarily long so you can recycle the stems week to week if you like.

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The Leucadendron is a member of the Proteaceae Family and it’s worth knowing that they have very delicate root systems. When watering make sure you give them a good drink once a week rather than a dribble every day. This will ensure deep root growth and a healthy, strong plant. When planting don’t feel compelled to tease out the roots. They will not appreciate you fiddling about so simply remove from the pot and plant out. Give them a light prune once a year to encourage new growth and extra blooms.

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Don’t be tempted to pamper these luscious lovlies as they won’t thank you for it. Fiercely independent they are happy in poor soil that’s slightly acidic and they loathe fertilisers. You may need to protect them from hard frosts (although my ‘Jenny Butler’ has been fending for itself quite happily uncovered) but there is no need to protect them from being nibbled by insects. It seems that insects turn their noses up at leucadendrons although they are attractive to bees.

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This is a Leucadendron ‘Floridum Pisa’ which I have positioned in the Cutting Garden. It’s tall and leggy with a finer leaf and a greener colour. They love to feel the wind through their hair – I mean leaves(!) – as they are coastal plants (originally from South Africa). The wind has been howling around that unprotected paddock so I can only imagine he has been in seventh heaven! As well as being a very tactile plant they are also available in a variety of colours which are really pronounced once the winter chill sets in.

I also chose Leucadendron ‘yellow tulip’ which is a large 2×1.5 metre bush with creamy yellow tulip shaped blooms in the winter months and Leucadendron ‘jack harre’ with flaming red star shape blooms with a cream throat. This is a more compact bush at 1×1 metre. I think they’ll be very happy here as foliage for my Cutting Garden.

The Cutting Garden

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It’s long been a dream of mine to have a Cutting Garden; that is, a garden full of flowers and foliage purely for cutting and putting into vases. Over the last five years we’ve been slowly adding beds, removing beds, creating a vege garden, expanding the vege garden, putting in paths and walks and, ever so slowly, removing the apple orchard next to our garden. There is still quite  a lot of orchard left but we now have a new bit of garden to which we can do Anything We Like! So the dream begins…..

And the dream begins with marking out a Cut Flower Garden. It needs to be a practical design (a bit like a vege garden really) but I also want it to be somewhere with a shady spot and a comfy seat to sit and be surrounded by scent and beauty. I bought Sarah Raven’s Cutting Garden book about six years ago and loved to immerse myself in the pages of practical advice and also dreamy flower photos. I’ve also seen a fairly recent video of her Cutting garden last year and saw that it had changed considerably from the book. It appears to have been expanded even more than the 24 x 12m section! There are more beds although the L shaped beds around the sides that house the shrubs and perennials still exist. I love the idea of having lots of pickable foliage in the Cutting Garden. I think this will add height and drama and a skeleton for the winter months when the annuals are long gone and the bulbs yet to arrive. My layout is very much like the original layout from the book. The beds are quite wide but I’ll be treating them as two halves ie picking from each side so it should work out.

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It looks very bare at the moment. We’ve used weed mat to mark out the pathways and you’ll have to imagine a hedge around the perimetre but basically this is my Cutting Garden.

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The coloured posts will permanently mark out the lines of bulbs. When the bulbs die down I can plant my annuals inbetween the posts and, in the summer, the flowers and foliage will spill over into clumps and the bulbs will be left undisturbed.

Talking of bulbs, I’m Very Late to be planting bulbs but in my defense it has been very warm. So I went Ahead and Planted Anyway. Some bulbs were already sprouting so I know this may impact on the quality of their bloom beacuse they won’t have had enough of a chance to establish roots. However, by leaving the foliage on the plant and letting it die back naturally I’m hoping the bulb will get enough nourishment for the following year. I’ve planted Tulips, Anenomes, Ranunculus, Daffoldils, Muscari, Gladioli and Freesias. Planting bulbs is the ultimate exercise in optimism. Who would imagine in their wildest dreams that a handful of wizened, dry lumps will turn into blooming, fragrant, beautiful flowers. That’s the part of gardening that always delights and amazes me and makes me believe in magic.

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I’m normally a very haphazard gardener mainly because I always have so much to get done but this time I’m being methodical and meticulous and I’m writing it all down. I used string and a tape measure to keep the rows straight and the bulbs spaced out evenly.

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There’s not a lot of science behind bulb planting but when you plant ranunculus plant them with their little claws downwards. When they flower pick as many as you like as, rather like sweetpeas, the more you pick the more the plant will produce.  Here are my other Top Tips for bulb planting

Store anemone corms (and ranunculus) in the fridge 4 weeks prior to planting then soak them in luke warm water for 3-4 hours to wake them up. Anemones like the cold so don’t plant until autumn. The corms don’t seem to have a top or a bottom and luckily it doesn’t matter! Dig a 5cm trench in well drained soil and just pop them in any which way and they will figure out where to grow. Clever little corms. They will appreciate a good soaking to get their roots growing. They will then send up lots of lacy foliage and finally the flowers in spring. Cut these flowers happily but leave the foliage to die back naturally to allow the corm to be nourished for next year.

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Tulips relish a cold, cold spell so store bulbs in the fridge for a good 5 weeks before planting out. It will be interesting to see how my tulips fare because winters can be quite mild here. see the brown papery skin on the bulbs in the picture above? Remove this papery skin to allow for roots to appear with ease. Give them a good soaking.

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These tiny muscari are sprouting so I’m not expecting too much of them this year. So that’s what I’ve been up to recently and a lot of fun it was too. I have two peonies to plant out in the L shape beds and a few more foliage plants to get the garden started. Then I get to do my favourite job ever – plan for Spring! I have a feeling my list of annuals is going to be a long one……

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Garden Share Collective June

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Time to see what’s been happening in the garden for the Garden Share Collective hosted by Lizzie from Strayed from the Table. The craziness continues in the garden this month. We’ve had a couple of frosts recently after temperatures of 23c! It’s definitely a case of dressing in lots of layers! Last time on the GSC May I was intrigued to see that some beans had self seeded and were climbing merrily up the metal wigwams…..

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….not sure if they’ll last through the frosts. They’re looking a little on the sick side but if their root system survives I may well be ahead in the spring. The peas that I planted to overwinter have actually flowered and produced little peas! Although some little creature has been feasting on them…. This is the first time I’ve carried on vege gardening through the winter so we’ll have to see what happens in the spring. It’s definitely a time for Greens in the garden. The absolute stars of the Winter vege garden include

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Kale, Spinach, Silverbeet (chard) and Pak Choi. I really love being able to pick my own greens because I know they haven’t been sprayed with chemicals and that they are as fresh as can be. Also so much cheaper and I find I waste a lot less because I only pick what I need.

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Still enjoying lots of colour from calendular. I had to weed a lot of seedlings that had appeared in the gravel path but they were easy to pull up and I’ve left loads in the beds so come Spring the colour will continue.

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More colour from rose hips and from the leaves of my blueberries. I’ve planted the blueberries in tubs full of acidic soil. I’ve never had much luck with blueberries but I remembered that a friend of mine grew a blueberry in a large pot for years. She even transported it from London to Kent and (as far as I know) it still thrives today. It was such a prolific plant literally dripping in berries so, with a little bit of molly coddling, I too am hoping for this kind of dripping berry action.

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Lemons are looking good and limes are flourishing too. Looking forward to making some lime yoghurt muffins.  The grapefruit doesn’t seem to mind the frost at all. I bought a little guava fruit bush in a sale the other day and I’m hoping that this time next year I can add that fruit to the harvest. The variety of guava we generally get here in New Zealand are the little gob stopper sized ones. Perfect for nibbling and popping in a lunchbox.

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I’m really pleased with the artichokes ‘Purple de Jesi’ that I sowed last Spring. I’m hoping for beautiful purple artichokes next Spring but for the moment I’m enjoying their architectural spikiness.

Jobs To Do

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It’s a lot of weeding and tidying at the moment.
Clear a path around the greenhouse so I can store all my pots behind it
Clean out the greenhouse
Plant out garlic
Add manure to the squash bed
Sow some more beetroot and carrot
Sow Queen Charlotte violets to make syrup
Sow more sweetpeas
Sow Coriander and dill (they do so well in the colder months)

Lastly, the most delightful fruit that cheers me up on a cold day – the persimmon. Beautiful peeled and sliced into fruit salad or eaten on it’s own. It has a slightly nutty taste and is hard like an apple. I always think the tree looks like a Christmas tree all lit up when the sun shines on the golden orbs. Happy Gardening and pop over to Strayed from the Table to see what other gardeners are up to around the world.

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