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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