Sunday, 26 December 2010

This Used to be My Playground part 2, now with added Lilies

Well, at least it looks like a Himalayan scene...

Welcome back to part two of what I suppose is my end-of-year report on the roof garden. Year one was just a case of getting some colour going with Pelargoniums, Nasturtiums and Petunias plus a few gems but next year should be all about Lilies, Irises and Primulas, fulfilling the Himalayan/Caucasus remit rather better than the ton of South African bulbs and seed in Part 1.

First of all Meconopsis: I have two pots of betonicifolia, seedlings (if the squirrel has left me any) of "Hensol Violet" and grandis a pot of integrifolia seeds with one seedling so far, and mature plants of superba and napaulensis.

I'm 500 miles away so I can't show you the real things, which will look awful anyway, but you know betonicifolia:
The magical, mystical but not mythical Blue Poppy, M. betonicifolia
The "Hensol Violet" strain of the above. Quite why I chose to grow it from seed instead of the real blue one I have no idea but I quickly bought a couple of plants of the blue fella. Plus the Hensol seedlings have four leaves and that's the one or two that survived the squirrel's hunt for lilies. Grandis was in the same tray (divided by a bit of cane). It should look like this:
M. grandis: like betonicifolia but bigger and more likely to die after flowering

M. integrifolia

M. Superba, nice rosettes too. Sow seeds every year cos it flowers and then dies

M. Napaulensis. Also comes in yellow, blue, reds of all shades and probably white too. Forms stunning silky-haired rosette up to 3ft across before throwing up a metre-high flower spike and dying on you

Now I'm going to bore you to death with Lilies and their close cousins, the Notholirion and Nomocharis. About half my lilies are seeds, some sown some unsown, the rest bulbs, almost all of flowering size.

Let's get the Notholirions out of the way first: a very easy and rewarding genus that clump up well and aren't fussy about situation.

N. bulbiferum © Daniel Winkler
N. thomsonianum, which sends up leaves in October. They don't seem at all bothered by the cold snaps, in fact they just keep growing. © Brian Collins on Flickr
They are, in fact, beautiful pants, forming basal rosettes and sending up a 3f-4ft spike of lilac Lily-like flowers that are somewhat smaller than a Lily. That plant will then die (I can see a theme emerging) but it will leave behind plenty of bulblets which will flower in 1-3 years.

The Nomocharis is a thing of enormous beauty and great variation and bloody hard to get hold of. I have N. aperta, N. Parthandina and N. mairei, the mose common ones.

N.aperta. There is no guarantee my bulb will look anything like this, except for the general pink, spotty theme

N.pardanthina. Again, the spotting on my bulb is entirely random (and actually they've all been grown so close to each other in nurseries that I'm pretty sure none  is pure-bred anyway. Only seed from the wild could guarantee clean genes, and even then only if it had been growing far from any other species

N. mairei. It's good to see it so happy in a pot as that's what mine will be growing in, the roof having no soil. Also good to see plenty of offsets.

Previously called Lilium giganteum but now known as Cardiocrinum giganteum is possibly the stupidest thing I've ever bought. I have C. giganteum yunnanense, which is in a pot which should hopefully keep the size down because in the wild, or in the woods at Glendoick Gardens near Perth (Scotland, not Australia) where I got it and have seen it flowering in stunning drifts in the shade of beeches and surrounded by just-passed Rhododendrons it would grow to some 3m, flower and yep, you guessed it, die. Fortunately it too will leave little presents which you can pot up or plant in a shaded nursery bed and they will flower quite quickly. The plant also makes HEAPS of seed. Each pod has at least 100 in it, sow in winter, with back and wait for seven years (really). Make sure the tips of the bulbs are above the soil or THEY WILL ROT. 

It could do with a person in it to show just how tall it is

So, having put it off, here we go with the actual Lily Lilies. I'm not going to split them by geography, type, or any other criteria, I'm just going to go for it. Where I have seed but no plant yet, I will put a little (S) and where I have the real deal, I will put a happy smiley face. No I won't , I'll put a (B). I'm also not going to include hybrids other than first generation, even though the dirty great containers of five huge bulbs that should get to 2m (I have a plan for support) and provide much of the structure of the roof. And one's called Tiger Woods, which is quite funny. Presumably it will damage the metal container on it's way up and then cross-polinate with all the other Lilies, except the other four in its pot before disappearing for six months and then never really reaching the previous height. Ha, Ha.

Lilium amoenum: a rare and elusive species with a str ongly fragrant flower, the price being one flower per bulb. Native to Yunnan, China, at around 2,000m. Thought lost to cultivation in 1938 when the lsat known plant died at Bodnant Gardens but reappeared in the late 1990s so stocks are still low which is why I paid so flipping much for 2 of them on eBay! (B)

Lilium Amabile var. Luteum is from Korea and is usually orange but there are so many orange turk's caps  I went for the yellow. Can reach 4ft on slender stems that carry 6-8 well-spaced blooms. It increases quickly from stem bulblets, my favourite kind! Gives off a fragrance you either like or loath. Once established it can withstand drought quite well, a bonus for container gardeners! © Ron Moodycliffe (B)

Lilium auratum.  A legendary Japanese species. Actually best in pots, good news for rooftop gardeners and prefers an unshaded spot even though by nature a woodland edge plant in volcanic soils. Very large flowers, white with gold bands and spots, although considerable variation in the spotting and striping. (B)

Lilium candidum. The fabled Madonna Lily is native to theBalkans and West Asia. It forms bulbs at ground level, and unlike other lilies, has a basal rosette of leaves through the winter, which die back in summer. A leafy flower stem, typically up to 1.2 m high, sometimes up to 2 m high, emerges in late spring and bears fragrant flowers in summer. Flowers are white, flushed yellow at the base. It has long been cultivated, but is susceptible to virus diseases of lilies, and to Botrytis fungus. One possible way to avoid problems with viruses is to grow plants raised from seed, hence (S)

Lilium cernuum A woodland gem of a lily from Russia and China, cernuum will delight your eyes with nodding flowers in candy-pink. It has the look of a minature turk's cap and has plenty of blossoms on branching stems to 3ft' (B)

Lilium Ciliatum. A beautiful species from NE Turkey, I'd been after it for ages and paid an eye-watering amount of money for it  (B)

Lilium citronella. A native of Asia but I can't be more specific because the internet can't either. Apparently a vigorous grower, quickly bulking up by way of off-sets so the container gardener will need to both feed generously and left and divide before it becomes pot-bound which will either stop it flowering or cause your pot to explode, neither of which I'd encourage. When dividing, repot the new bulbs at the same depth you found them in the old pot and either plant then three, five or seven (always an odd number, symmetry and even numbers are the bane of the designer's life. Well, that and a certain correspondent filing twice as much as she was asked for - after deadline) (S)

Lilium concolor var. strictum, also knows as the morning star lily, is a rarely seen species of great elegance from northeast Asia. Just about makes 3ft and flowers in June/July. Prefers moderately moist conditions but don't overwater and of course all your containers will have excellent drainage. Very hardy. The bulbs never go fully dormant so treat carefully even when the leaves have gone(B)

Lilium distichum: Reaches from a normal 50cm or so, up to 120cm tall when robust or shaded. Despite its height it is a slender and very graceful species. The stem sits with a decorative cartwheel whorl of leaves in the middle. Above this the flowers are borne in spikes of up to 12 and are a shade of orange-vermilion, the petals spotted with red-purple. Each bloom is out-facing and more or less flat-faced (with only the petal tips reflexed). The flowers are not symmetrical about themselves, something you will recognise when you see them. Readily grown and a humus rich soil in half shade. Still scarce plant in cultivation and  poorly understood in botanical circles too.
© Nick Kurzenko 

Lilium ducharterii. This is a real beauty and easily cultivated, found at medium to high altitudes in south-western China, growing in forest margins and moist hillsides, even marshy ground. Emerging from small scaly bulbs which produce plentiful offsets when happy, with stems 50-150cm tall carrying narrow grassy leaves crowned by an inflorescence of 1-12 scented turk's-cap flowers, white with speckling of wine-red. For a moist humus rich soil in shade, where it can form a colony.(B)

Lilium fargesii, just one of several species with an irresistable green/purple combo. It makes a small white bulb no more than 1.5cm across. A slender, short (15-20cm) stem bears scattered grass-like leaves.

The flowers are Turk's cap, with broad petals. Plants are 1-6 flowered, each bloom 2-3cm across in a delicious shade of greenish-white. The petals are darker green in the centre and whitish at the edges and are spotted and dotted with chestnut brown. The whole flower is scented. As with many lilies this can be overpowering to some people. This is late flowering, at the earliest in late July in England and more usually in Aug-Sept.
First described by Franchet in 1892 but not seen in western cultivation until 100 years later, this is a native of grassy fields on the edges of woods at 1500-1800m N.W. Hubei. It reportedly grows at up to 2300m in Szechuan and Yunnan. It likes some shade and wind shelter coupled with good drainage, good air-circulation, cool to cold winters and humus in the soil. A dryish winter would elevate good cultivation to perfection.
Says expert and all-round good chap: "This rare species has fascinated me since I first knew that it existed, and being able to offer it at last is a personal milestone." So I bought it from him for about £20. (B)

Lilium Hansonii. I've actually got tons of these, having won some on eBay when I'd already ordered seed and a bulb from elsewhere. Shame it's not one of my favourites... a vigorous, stem-rooting, bulbous perennial with dense whorls of lance-shaped, mid- to dark green leaves and, in early summer, erect racemes of small, fragrant, nodding, bright orange-yellow, turkscap flowers. From what I can gather, it's from Korea and environs. (B/S)

Lilium leichtlinii, from Japan. The yellow form has reddish-purple spots and grows only in central Honshu, Japan's main island, among tall grasses in rich, moist meadows. The stem is purplish; the buds (and the outside base of the tepals) are woolly. Height  (2-4'). The flowers are smaller than L. lancifolium. The variety maximowiczii, synonymous with variety tigrinum, which I don't have, has orange flowers, below. (B)

Lilium lancifolium. This species is native to northern and eastern Asia, including Japan. It is one of several species of lily to which the common name Tiger lily is applied, and is the species most widely known by this name. Flowers are borne on an erect stem 80–200 cm tall, clothed with the more or less linear leaves 6–9 cm long and 1–2 cm broad. It is one of a very small number of species that produce aerial bulblets, known as bulbils, in the leaf axils along the stem. These can be used to propagate the plant. Flowers  last for a short period of time before they wither and are replaced by newer flowers. (B)

Lilium lancifolium "flore pleno". Much as above with the obvious difference of rather more petals. "flore Pleno" is a clump-forming, stem-rooting, bulbous perennial with dark purple stems bearing linear, glossy, dark green leaves and, in midsummer, racemes of nodding, double, orange-red flowers with recurved petals and dark purple spots. Presumably does the same bulbil trick as it's mum but I haven't grown it to maturity so that's conjecture. Perhaps my reader could help? (B)

Lilium lophophorum (B)
Easy to grow but very slow from seed.Short stems, just 15-20cm high, with disproportionately large, lemon-peel-yellow flowers each with long twisted segments, initially joined at the tips.

Likes cool, damp peaty conditions but good drainage. A lovely dwarf Lily which should be better known, especially in view of its strong but light fragrance of lemons. There is also an incredibly rare pink form, look:

Lilium Macklinae is a tiddler compared to many we've been looking at, reaching 1-2ft. It is found in the upper reaches of the Siroi hill ranges in the Ukhrul district of Manipur,India, at an elevation of 1730m–2590m.This shade lover  has pale bluish-pink petals. In the wild it flowers in the monsoon months of June and July. Here it may bloom as early as May. The lily gets its name from Macklin, the family name of Jean, the second wife of plant-hunter Frank Kingdon-Ward; it was discovered in 1946. The lily won the Merit prize of the 1948 Royal Horticultural Society at a Flower Show in London (but no longer holds an Award of Garden Merit). It is also the state flower of Manipur.

Another stunning purple-on-green, Lilium majoense is a superb plant with slender, yet robust, growths clothed in disease-resistant waxy foliage below large, broad greeny-white bells with a large blackcurrant-purple zone in the centre. The white is sprinkled with imperial-purple. August. A very beautiful species. Likes a sunny spot with only a little shade,but a well drained, humus rich soil where it can root down. (B)

Lilium Martagon Lilium martagon (Martagon or Turk's cap lily has a widespread native region extending from central Europe east through northern Asia to Mongolia and Korea. Several subspecies have been named. It is stem-rooting, growing between 1m and 2m tall. The flower colour is typically a pink-purple, with dark spots, but is quite variable, extending from near white to near black. The flowers are scented. Numerous flowers are borne on each plant, and up to 50 can be found on vigorous plants. The green stems can be flushed with purple or red and the leaves are elliptic to inverse lanceolate, mostly in whorls, up to 16cm long and often lightly hairy underneath. (S/B/B)

Lilium medeliodes: is a beautiful Japanese plant. Flowers are borne in a cluster of two to seven depending on vigour and vary from apricot to intense orange, with reflexed petals spotted and flecked in deep purple-black.
Readily grown, this likes deep, damp, leafy soils in shade, but also appreciates good drainage. This makes fragile bulbs with tiny 'rice grains' attached and as they cannot be moved without some fragmentation. So do not expect flowers in the first year after moving. (B)

Lilium Michiganense.  Coommonly referred to as the Michigan Lily, this is present in the wild in prairie habitats in the eastern US and Canada, as far southwest as OklahomaThe flower is orange with spots (yes, another one). It is often confused with Lilium superbums and Lilium lancifolium. The leaf arrangement is typically whorled, but sometimes alternate just below the inflorescence and at the very base of stem.

Lilium monadelphum (syn. szovitsianum)

Narrow hairy leaves in dense spiralled whorls around the stem, stout spikes of scented, good sized, brilliant-yellow flowers with minute red speckles inside, all on stems less than a metre tall. An excellent, robust species. six years from from germination to flowering! (S).

Lilium Nepalense, one of the most coveted of the genus,is a native of the southern slopes of the Himalaya, from Bhutan through Nepal to Uttaranchal. It grows up to about 1 m high, usually less. The bulbs are stoloniferous, and for newly planted bulbs, the shoot will often come up some distance from the planting spot. Flowers are few, often solitary, pendant, coloured pale green with a purple throat, and scented. It likes a deep humus-rich soil in which these can spread. A rich soil or feeding will ensure that the offsets made along the underground stem, reach flowering size quickly. Fully hardy in Britain, as you'd expect given its homeland! (B)

Lilium pardalinum, sometimes known as the Panther or Leopard lily, is a native of damp areas in the coastal ranges of California. Usually grows to about two meters but the tallest and most vigorousm.m. can reach up to 2.5m.  The flowers are turks-cap shaped, red-orange, with numerous brown spots, usually appearing in July. The bulbs are small, and many are usually clustered together on a rhizomatous stock. (B)
There are arguably at least five subspecies, including

Lilium volmeri. Found only in bogs alongside pitcher plants  and by stream sides in the Siskiyou foothills on the California border, this lovely lily has intensely coloured flowers of red-orange, which have a contrasting paler yellow-chrome throat, dotted with purple markings. Says world expert Paul Christian of his stock: "These are seed-raised plants that are happy in a damp, peaty soil, and show none of the testiness that the plant is reputed to exhibit when transferred from the wild. Related to, but distinct from both L. pitkinense and L. pardalinum." So some debate there. (B)

Lilium parryi is a rare species also known as the lemon lily and Parry's lily. It is native to the south-western US and northern Mexico where it is a rare sighting in moist areas in mountain habitat. In California it is currently known from the San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains and a few remaining spots near Palomar Mountain to the south. It is the only true lily native to Arizona, where a few populations can be found in the HuachucaChiricahua, and Santa Rita Mountains. An occurrence of the plant was discovered in Sonora just south of the US in 1993. It's erect to about 2 meters in height from a scaly, elongated bulb up to 11 centimeters long. The leaves are generally linear in shape, up to 30cm ce long, and usually arranged in whorls around the stem. The flowers are borne in racemes of up to 30 large, showy, bright lemon yellow flowers. The trumpet-shaped, fragrant blooms have six curling tepals up to 11 centimeters long, sometimes with a few reddish spots. There are six stamens tipped with large anthers up to 1.4 centimeters long. The pistil may be 10 centimeters long. The flowers are pollinated by hawkmoths. Threats to this species include grazing, recreation, natural flooding and human alterations in water regimes, and horticultural collecting of the bulbs and flowers. It was named after Charles Christopher Parry (28 August 1823 – 20 February 1890), a British-American botanist and mountaineer (B)

Iris pensylvanicum (syn dauricum) is also  sometimes called the Siberian lily, being native to  SiberiaKamchatkaSachalin and the Kuriles, northeast ChinaKorea, and Hokkaidō. The Latin name is misleading due to an error by the botanist John Ker.
It reaches a height of 3 cm to 70cm. The stem is hard, smooth and straight, the leaves linear to lanceolate, 4 to 5cm long and 3 to 4mm wide. The plant flowers in June and July with one to six upright, dish-shaped flowers. The seeds mature from August to September. The bulb is roundish with a diameter of about 2cm. Lilium pensylvanicum is very undemanding and is easily cultivated. It is sensitive only in relation to drought. Thus the plant is popular in European and American gardens. (S)

Lilium poilanei  WWJ11679. A beautiful highly scented species which formes slender stems with scattered lanceolate leaves, 1-2m tall, bearing from one to many yellow pendant trumpet flowers with recurving tepals, stained red in the base , in August-October. Mine is From a 2006 seed collection from the Tram Trom Pass in northern Vietnam, one of the few footholds that it has survived in, which unfortunately has since been devastated making way for a new road into China. Here it grew on shady vertical cliffs, rooting into cracks and narrow shelves. Best grown in a well drained fertile soil with plenty of moisture retention in part shade. (B)

Lilium pomponium is perhaps the closest thing we Brits have to a native Lily, coming from the south of France and Northern Italy (still quite far away then). It groes to a little over a metre and the deep orange-red flowers are hermaphrodite. As long as the spoil is well drained it will cope with anything from sandy loam to hard clay. Prefers PH between 6-8. Needs a sunny spot although the edge of a woodland setting would do nicely. (S)

Lilium pumilum is a bulbous plant native to Mongolia, eastern SiberiaKorea and northern China. It is a stem-rooting bulb that grows up to 1 metre high, though usually a bit less. The leaves are slender and grassy. It bears from one to 2 reflexed and nodding flowers, usually A beautiful waxy red, which may be spotted with black. The flowers are scented. It was once known as  Lilium tenuifolium and may be short lived in cultivation, but tends to last longest in well-drained soils.

I'm beginning to know how a Galanthophile's wife feels: There all the same! This is L. pyrenaicum which grows like a weed with me and drops its little bulblets everyehere. It's just not easy to root into asphalt. Unfussy in the extreme, bulks up with almost panic-like haste and is about 2-3ft tall with a handful of quiet petit, perhaps an inch across, flowersper stem. This has comewith me fom Scotland where it thrived in an icy Siberian blast so no worries on the hardiness front. There is a red form, var rubrum: (B)

And possibly an orange as well. Great. But that might just be the red one.

Lilium Rosthornii: A lovely Chinese lily which has become available only within the past few years, and only then after a considerable amount of confusion with Lilium henryi (writes Paul Christian). It makes a splendid display with well packed stems of about 90cm holding several blooms of a softer tangerine than henryi. Easy and readily grown in light shade in a humus rich soil outside. Despite its rarity, this is not difficult. (B)

Lilium superbum. Oh hurrah, another orange Turk's cap! This fella grows from feet 3-7 high (not committing ourselved are we?), typically has 3-7 blooms, but exceptional specimens have been observed with up to 40 flowers on each stem. It is capable of growing in wet conditions. It is fairly variable in size, form, and colour: range from a deep yellow to orange to a reddish-orange "flame" coloring, with reddish petal tips. The flowers have a green star at their centre than can be used to distinguish it  from the Asiatic "Tigerlilies" that frequently escape from cultivation. The species ranges from New Hampshire south to Florida, and west to Missouri and Arkansas.The roots were a food source for Native Americans, and the flowers provide nectar for Hummingbirds and larger insects.

An outstanding variety sought after for both its fragrance and late-summer bloom. The recurved, pendent flowers are white and crimson, and can reach 6in across. This is the last of the Lilies in our list to flower, and to our nose at least, it is also among the most fragrant. Up to six feet tall but more likely three, it likes a dappled position and will cope with a little sand as long as it is moist or clay as long as it free-fraining. (B)

Lilium wallichianum is a bulbous plant native to the Himalayas. The bulbs are stoloniferous, with new bulbs capable of appearing some distance from the original. The green stem tinged with purple grows up to 2 metres high. The leaves are scattered, dark green, linear to lanceolate and up to 25cm long. It bears up to four trumpet-shaped flowers, white to creamy-yellow in colour, held horizontally and up to 20cm across. It is named after Dr. Nathaniel Wallich, an early 19th century Danish plant hunter, botanist and physician. (B)

Lilium washingtonianum is a native to the Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada of western North America. It is also known as the Washington Lily, Shasta Lily, or Mt. Hood Lily. It is named after Martha Washington and not the state of Washington; in fact, as the northern range of the plant is near Mount Hood in Oregon, it does not naturally occur in the state of Washington. Its range is limited to the states of California and Oregon. (B)

All of which is a very time-consuming way of saying I haven;t lost touch with my Himalayan roots. Even though I was born in Dundee. Merry Christmas and here's to a blaze of glory bext year! The Plantboy x


  1. Great post as always and I wasn't bored to death with the lilies. Have a wonderful New year!

  2. Beautiful pictures! I was wondering if we could use your fabulous Double Tiger Lily 'Flore Pleno' on our website We would credit and link back to your blog.

    megan (at)