Name: Lily

Botanical name: Lilium.

There are many garden plants which are dubbed lily, such as arum lily and canna lily.

Family: Liliaceae. Many of the flowers have a resemblance because they carry large flowers in the lily shape. However, only true lilies have the six petal shape.

Garden lilies

Lily flowers are among the largest and most beautifully shaped of any plant and the tall slender stems are most elegant and graceful.

Some are bright in brilliant colours, others are more subtle, and many kinds are wonderfully scented. Two kinds of lily were traditional in gardens — the madonna lily and the tiger lily.

The madonna lily got its common name from the symbolic use of this flower in religious paintings, symbolizing purity and simplicity.

The tiger lily got its name from its orange-red colour and brown spots — the tiger colours.

Both of these are easy lilies to grow. The madonna lily can tolerate years of neglect. Indeed it does best when it is planted in a very well-drained soil in full sunshine and not disturbed for years.

Unusually, the leaves appear in a ground-level rosette and persist through the winter, dying off as the tall flower spikes arise from the bulb.

The flower stems can reach to waist-height or above and carry up to twenty waxy white trumpet-shaped flowers, sweetly scented.

More flowers are produced if a little feeding with general fertiliser is given and a light top-dressing of leaf mould or compost is beneficial also because this species of lily has the unusual habit of showing the top of the bulbs slightly proud of the surrounding soil.

The tiger lily is a tough customer too, again thriving on years of neglect. It appears to be very pest and disease resistant.

Whereas some lilies decline over the years due to virus diseases, evidenced as lack of flowers, streaked foliage and flowers, and stunting, the tiger lily appears immune. Immune that is, except when it comes to the red lily beetle.

This obnoxious pest has arrived only in the last decade or a bit more, specialising in eating the foliage of all kinds and the allied fritillaria.

Tiger lily flowers are very striking, carried on a fairly short stem as lilies go, qualities that make them suitable for use in breeding programmes and there are many good lily varieties that have some of the genetics the tiger lily.

Hybrid lilies

A group of very reliable hybrids of similar size and structure includes ‘Enchantment’ (orange), ‘Sterling Silver’ (white), ‘Fire King’(orange red), ‘Red Night’(deep red) and ‘Connecticut King’(bright yellow).

These are hardy and easy to grow, need very little care and attention, not much more than the two traditional kinds, just a bit more feeding or richer ground.

They flower without fail and last for years. All of these have short stems and upward-facing flowers in bright colours.

The regal lily is well named, truly a regal flower. Its long flaring trumpets are flushed with wine-purple on the outside and the thick petals have a yellow flash in the throat.

It can reach two metres when well-grown, though it is usually about half that height. The flowers are beautifully scented, a true sweet lily fragrance that wafts a long way from the plant on a summer evening.

With the regal lily as one parent, ‘Golden Splendour’ is easy to grow, tall with a large head of yellow trumpets.

Lilies like well-drained soil, enriched with humus, free-draining and not heavy in winter. In areas with heavy soil, coarse sand or gravel should be mixed into the planting space to open up the soil.

But such preparations are not necessary for many of the easier kinds.

Boost dahlias

Dahlias flower remarkably well.

If you planted out dahlias in May, the chances are that you applied some fertiliser to the soil, prior to planting.

If not, then some liquid feeding of dahlias now ensures a good run of flowers into the autumn.

Dahlias are often simply left in the ground year after year and they flower remarkably well, but better results can be got by a little feeding as the demand comes on the plant in mid-summer.

The ideal would be to water the plants heavily with about twenty litres of water, or more, or a drip from a hose for about six hours.

Then feed with a liquid feed. These are balanced feeds and supply adequate potash for flowers as well as nitrogen for growth. There is a danger of vigorous dahlias toppling over and staking might be necessary.

This week

Trees, shrubs and roses

Young trees and shrubs have suffered badly in many places this summer and should get a good heavy soaking. It is time to clip hedges of all kinds before the wood gets tough. Rambler roses should be pruned as they flowers fade, removing the older shoots.


Continue watering and feeding flowers in containers of all kinds — they should be approaching their peak now. Tackle weeds in flower borders before the seeds are shed. Even if these borders were cleaned earlier, there are always a few weeds that survive.

Fruit, vegetables and herbs

Make some late sowings of lettuce and radishes. Sweet corn is growing well after a slow start. Listen for blight warnings in damp spells and overcast weather. Remove vegetables that have gone over. If the soil is dry, most vegetables should be watered.


Lawns suffered in the hot weather, especially on dry sandy soil, where clover really comes into its own. But the grass always recovers as drought does not last long enough to kill it. When rain falls in good amounts be ready to apply some lawn fertilizer.

Greenhouse and house plants

Continue watering and feeding greenhouse plants. Be especially careful to water plants in pots or grow-bags regularly. These can easily dry out. Train and side-shoot tomatoes and cucumbers. Watch for red spider mite on busy Lizzie and banana plants.

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