Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Lilies Duly Considered and Planted. And the Icing on the Cake

Meconopsis suberba looking unfazed by the dip in temperature. But then his mum's from halfway up K2 so he's used to a bit of cold weather. 
Frost has visited the roof for the first time this autumn. Or rather,  I have been up early enough to encounter frost on the roof, a relatively rare occurrence in Zone 1. Or 4. Or anywhere in Greater London. Actually it was quite dangerous as there are no walls or fences or anything to stop me sliding all the way off after manoeuvring my disabled foot out the window first and letting the rest of my body just flail after it. But I hadn't expected everything to be so, well, frozen and slippy.

Notholirion thomsonianum is growing by the day. Frost is clearly not an issue!

I had gone out to do the morning rounds (I've been up since 2am due to chronic insomnia and night sweats - my pillow was so wet it was like someone  had emptied a bucket of water over my head -  thank god I don't have to go to work today) but I digress. So it was no surprise that I was first in the queue at the PO depot when it opened at 7am. Turns out it was a Tricyrtis hirta "Miyazaki" I'd ordered from Ebay. It's a beautiful specimen and even had a flower on it which fell off before I could very quietly get my photographic gear out of the bedroom. Still, not bad for a couple of quid and it's quite an unusual hirta hybrid, unusual in the sense that I'm sure mine had black spots but when I google it, it appears very varied, which it shouldn't be, they should all be genetically identical ... (does some quick research) ... Ah, it appears to be a  named variant of T. hirta, and variants of variants are also called "Miyazaki". So that's clear then. You could read this  http://www.paghat.com/toadlily2.html but it just confused me. Anyway, here's the little darling, sadly sans bloom:

The cold doesn't seem to have done any damage, although I did have the polyhut zipped up for the night but it's so draughty and crap that if Joseph Paxton were to travel forward in time 159 years he would cry, and not in the good way.

The good news is the Lathyrus chloranthus appear to be hardy, to a degree at least 

Even a regal Pelargonium wondered what all the fuss was about
In fact all the bitty seedling i was worried about are fine, even Digitalis obscura and its 49 mates and if a Mediterranian native fond of sun-baked stoney hillsides can cope with sitting in a nodule of soaking, freezing peaty compost with only its cotyledons for protection then there's hope for us all.

Anyway, today was meant to be about planting Lilies and surprise, surprise, a juno iris and a Frit from the Romit Valley in Tajikistan. Well, it's from seed collected there.

It seems like months ago that I was struggling with four  containers from The Very Expensive Garden Centre having been seduced by van Meuwen's half-price collection of 4x5 Asiatic hybrid Lily bulbs so I must have put the order in even longer ago but they arrived yesterday, all the way from Holland, mostly looking wonderfully healthy and already showing an inch of growth so It's just as well I have somewhere to plant them and took delivery of 150 litres of compost from Dobies mail order service weeks ago! (Which made moving around the roof even harder, what with all the plants and stuff. One of the Lilies is rather unfortunately called "Tiger Woods". So that's not a brand new introduction then!

Yes, there they are. I lined the basket with polythene and slashed holed in it, as well as punching holes in the two metal containers and then filling then bottom of each with gravel.  
I had intended to underplant with double nasturtiums but I fear that might put too much strain on the food and, most importantly, water supply. Lilies are hungry, thirsty beggars but on the other hand like their lower regions to be kept cool and mustn't dry out, it's that classic oxymoron soil condition of moist yet free-draining (many are originally plants of woodland margins, which is why they do so well planted in a leafy soil under shrubs such as Rhododendrons, magnolias and more boring things. And I  do have other things to do apart from potter about up there with a hose, like write this and oh, do my day job) so I can afford the plants - and the steel columns that will soon be required to hold it all up.

Also arriving with the same postman, who DID ring the bell!, was another small, in size at least, order from Paul Christian that the Royal Mail had managed to lose and so as soon as the 15-day  "sorry, black hole" period had elapsed the great man himself duly dispatched a replacement order with no fuss and including the Irises orchioides (juno) and stolonifera (regalia) as well as Notholirion bulbiferum - a star of a plant - and Fritillaria bucharica because it wouldn't  be an order from me without a Frit.

But back to the Lilies. I mixed up a compost of the Dobies base, perlite so that if it does dry out it doesn't become a cube of Weetabix never to be rehydrated and a season's worth of slow release food granules.

Take some decent quality compost

Add , er, some, perlite

Don't forget to feed them

Et voila! We're ready to plant
Don't forget plenty of drainage, you don't want rotten bulbs
The sizeable bulbs came  individually bagged by variety 
The bulbs had begun to sprout with roots like tentacles and the sizeable shoots made for a delicate cargo, one or two losing that main shoot but with time to catch up before next July! 

Planted too close together, of course, but who has a container that can contain five bulbs (the recommended) 10 inches apart?

The same amount of compost, around six inches, above and below the bulbs will give plenty of room for rooting (these are potentially 2 metres high) and keep the bloody squirrels out, hopefully. They've already had a go at the ones I planted at the weekend. And I've only got one sieve!

And sit back and wait for green shoots followed, with luck,  by this:

"Dutch Red"


"Tom Pouce"
"Tiger Woods"
As if that wasn't enough, that still left two Irises, a Frit and another Notholirion to get in the ground. Iris Stolonifera, a regalia type (harder than junos, not as hard as oncocyclus) and I. orchioides (a juno) both went into pots of sandy John Innes 3 mixed with a bit of perlite, and just a handful of the peaty stuff which is against the rules but provided it's mixed in well enough, I'd rather grow in it.

I've already covered planting junos in past posts, be careful not to break the chunky root(s) off the bottom but if you do it's not the end of the world; they'll grow back 

With the stoloniferous varieties it can be hard to tell what's up and what's down but if you lay it across the surface and cover with a thin layer of compost gravity will  do the rest. Top with a centimetre of grit and into the bulb frame until it's time to simulate spring!

The Notholirion has already sprouted fresh roots so I made up a compost mix of  peat substitute, rotted bark chippings and the ever-essential slow-release granules and potted it up, leaving plenty of room above the bulb so the roots can get established before it sends up a shoot.

And that just leaves squirrel-proofing!  
 Well, sorry to those who have been sucking eggs, and thanks for reading. Enjoy your garden!
The plantboy


  1. I have really enjoyed reading all of your posts. I am learning a lot about container gardening and the unusual bulbs/plants you have.

    BTW, Tiger Woods has "cousins". Dizzy and Tiger Edition. :)

  2. Night sweats, insomnia.....that's how I started off! Not trying to worry you!
    Read my blog on Toad Lily virus....


    .....as it's not too well known about, but given some credence this week by a friend who's a genetic scientist.

  3. Lily, I'm delighted you're enjoying my rambling nonsense, always good to know you're not talking to yourself!

    Keith, do you think I've got Tricyrtis syndrome? I jest but will have a look at that link, cos never having grown them before but always coveted them, it would be a bugger to lose any.

    I'm beginnning to think you're my only two readers. Well, and my dad.