Tag Archives: auratum lilies

Garden diary February 5, 2017 – all about flowers this week

The exquisite Worsleya procera after all the rain

The exquisite Worsleya procera after all the rain

I shall ignore the weather, bar noting that we had over 100ml of rain on Thursday night and while we get some sunny days, this is not summer as we know it. As we enter February, we may just have to accept that full-on summer is bypassing us this year. In the meantime, large parts of the country are in drought.

At least the beautiful worsleya didn’t mind the torrential rain. Maybe it is used to heavy spray, given its natural habitat beside waterfalls in Brazil. W. procera now flowers every year for us – though rarely more than two flower spikes despite the fact we have more than two bulbs – but it never fails to wow us. This really is a most exotic bulb in a particularly unusual blue shade, though neither easy to source nor grow. Ours never set seed because they are all the same clone. It is always extremely slow to set offshoots from the bulb.

Not a Hippeastrum aulicum

Not Hippeastrum aulicum

...despite the label

…despite the label

While on bulbs, I shall be a little unkind and post this photo from my visit to Auckland Botanic Gardens last week. Hippeastrum aulicum? Ahem, I think not. For they are red and flower in August and September. This patch looks mighty like belladonnas to me.

Not a camellia - a tutcheria, we think

Not a camellia – a tutcheria, we think

We went to visit a friend this week for a stroll around his garden – he is very strong on hydrangeas that go way beyond the commercial mop-top macrophylla types. But, while charmed by these, it was the yellow ‘camellia’ that excited us. Here, we thought, was an interesting summer-flowering yellow camellia that was far more sun tolerant than the yellow species we grow and that we had spent some time looking at in China last year. Ignore the background foliage which is the dreaded Rubus pentalobus (though not out of control in this shady spot). I just used it as a carpet to arrange the fallen blooms upon, with a leaf of the plant to the left. It certainly looked like a camellia in flower form, bud shape and texture and it was from a recent interesting plant collection in Asia.

I was about to email photographs to an Australia expert on yellow camellias for an identification when Mark saved us great embarrassment. Sometimes he surprises me with his knowledge, as when he came in and said he thought it was a tutcheria, not a camellia. It took a while to find the right spelling to enable a net search (he is better on names than he is on spelling) and it appears to be Tutcheria championii syn spectabilis and is found in woodlands of Hong Kong. Yes it looks like a camellia bloom and the habit of growth is similar but, like the gordonia, it is simply one of those related plants in the theaceae family which includes all camellias.

img_3969

Probably Dietes butcheriana

Probably Dietes butcheriana

Another plant mystery was solved when we managed to get what we think is the right species name on this dietes. After finding our neomarica was not a dietes, I wasn’t entirely sure whether Mark was right that this was one, either. The foliage is more spectacular than the flowers, which are rather small in comparison and not at all showy. But it appears it is the lesser known Dietes butcheriana that has made itself completely at home in a shaded area of the garden.

img_3976It is auratum lily season here and we have quite a few of these. I managed to get around staking the garden plants, in anticipation of the UK tour ten days ago – though they failed to flower on cue this summer. I don’t like to pick the flowers from the garden but… out in one of Mark’s vegetable patches, we have a large number of auratum lilies of many hues which Mark has hybridised and raised from seed in preparation for a new garden under construction. This has taken longer than anticipated so the lily patch has expanded and I can cut these to my heart’s content to bring indoors or give away.

Just a one-off auratum seedling

Just a one-off auratum seedling

This soft pink specimen is decidedly over the top. With 20 separate blooms, the flower spike is much too heavy to ever make a good garden plant and indeed it looked a bit gross out in the lily patch. But it looks splendid cut and put in a vase. You may notice the outward facing blooms. Florists prefer upward facing blooms and many of the auratums offered for sale are upward facing. Felix and now Mark started breeding for outward facing blooms because these make much better garden plants. They are hardier to weather conditions, do not gather debris and suffer less from pollen staining when grown in open conditions. Like many of Mark’s efforts, these are not oriented to commercial production, just to get better plants for our own garden. But oh we do get such a lot of delight from these summer flowers.

The lily patch in the vegetable garden

The lily patch in the vegetable garden

Tikorangi Notes, Feb 8, 2015: In search of a missing tennis ball

New dog Dudley lacked application when it came to searching for his missing tennis ball in the shrubbery

New dog Dudley lacked application when it came to searching for his missing tennis ball in the shrubbery

When we first plant a garden, we all experience impatience – waiting for the plants to settle in, to grow and to fill the space. At some point, often without us even noticing, the garden morphs over to the point where it is all about trimming back, shaping and letting in light. This thought came as I spent my weekend on an entirely different task to that I had planned. The shrubbery beside the driveway had indeed reached the point where it would benefit from some serious attention.

Our new dog Dudley was the unwitting catalyst. Dudley, or Dudders to give him his cricketing nickname, is a four year old fox terrier – a re-home from the SPCA (as opposed to a rescue dog). He was clearly a much loved dog but a townie dog and it has been a steep learning curve of liberation for him to move to the country and space. In his nine short days with us, he has won a place in our affections already and settled in better than any of us ever anticipated. Dudley plays and therein lies the connection. Yours truly was never a sporty gal at school and my ball skills were always a little lacking. Out entertaining Dudders on the lawn with a tennis ball, I hurled it into the shrubbery in error. He quickly gave up the search.

I have removed a prodigious amount of material - to the left for compost, to the right to be chipped and then composted

I have removed a prodigious amount of material – to the left for compost, to the right to be chipped and then composted

I, on the other hand, have spent two full days cutting back and clearing out a prodigious amount of plant material. Yet the tennis ball remains missing. Each time Mark passes, he asks whether I have found it yet. He has suggested I may not know my own strength and maybe launched it further than I realised. That seems unlikely but its whereabouts remains a mystery. The shrubbery, however, is now open to the light and there are gaps to be filled when the autumn rains arrive. I expect it to look well furnished and handsome again by spring and I am keeping it largely true to my original theme of blue and white flowered shrubs only.

I have long thought that shrubberies are one of the lowest maintenance forms of gardening and they probably are but even they need a major clean out once every five years.
???????????????????????????????In the garden it is still all about lilies. Big, blowsy, over the top auratum lilies. I am not picking the ones in the garden but in a small area of Mark’s new vegetable garden is a congested block of his seedling auratums, raised in anticipation of our new summer garden. There I can pick by the armful and oh, how I love these extravagant blooms. Auratums are a strong argument for the vigilant border control we have in this country. We do not, repeat NOT, need the lily beetle here. It is a nasty critter that takes up residence on auratum lilies and covers itself in its own excrement. We have seen it in the UK where it is an unwelcome arrival which has all but destroyed the auratum display in some areas.
DSC01258 (Small)DSC01260 (Small)2013_0105carol0023 (Small)Following my final photo feature for the Waikato Times on the topic of washing lines, Times reader Carol Lodge sent me a lovely email of appreciation and sent me photos of her new washing line which struck me as genuinely creative and resourceful. She says: “The insulators and stays for the washing line came from a trade with the power board gang who were replacing poles down our road- morning tea in return for the insulators…. My husband is a radio ham and apparently , and not by coincidence my clothesline is tuned to the 80 metre band.”

It is a bit like the final word on washing lines, isn’t it? But I am off garden visiting with friends in Auckland this weekend at the Heroic Garden Festival. It appears to have lost many of its heroic origins now – become “straightified” a gay friend observed – but I may well find additional examples of washing lines and other ideas to share from these smaller urban gardens.

I have ALL the lilies

I have ALL the lilies

The January Garden

Auratums and pink lobelia

Auratums and pink lobelia

I don’t cut many flowers to bring indoors. It feels a bit like murdering them to sever them in their prime and bring them indoors to die. We were lucky that Mark’s parents had the foresight to plan the garden so there is a different view from every house window and we have plenty of flowers in sight all year round. The lilies are different. In summer I love to bring in huge stems to scent the house. They are big. They are bold. They are beautiful. Lilies define our summers.

You need quite a lot of lilies to justify cutting the entire stem off and, after many decades, we have a few. Mark’s father Felix started breeding auratums maybe four or five decades ago and Mark has continued. This was never for commercial reasons. It was to build up plants for the garden, to extend the colour range and the season and particularly to get outward facing blooms rather than the upward facing ones which are preferred in floristry. Constantly replenishing with newly raised plants is also a safeguard against the potential ravages of lily virus. Not that we have had a problem with lily virus and disease, but if we ever do, we are prepared.

The lily we scorned at Wisley

The lily we scorned at Wisley

We noticed a floriferous new lily at the Royal Horticultural Society Wisley Gardens last June. People were admiring it and but Mark took one look and said: “Gross. No good as a garden plant. Look at those upward facing blooms waiting to mark.” Not only are the upward facing blooms more vulnerable to weather damage, but the pollen falls internally and spoils it sooner. So I photographed it, but not for the same reason as the admirers. It was showy but we wouldn’t give it garden space.

Although you can to leave auratum lilies in the ground year after year, lifting and replanting deeper on a regular basis saves having to stake every stem. They work their way upwards over time. In our free draining soil, if I put them anything up to 20cm down, they are much better at holding themselves upright. The other technique to save forever staking (and then de-staking at the end of the season) is to grow them through shrubs which can act as supports. Apple trees and azaleas work well for us. When I do have to stake, I prefer to harvest my own bamboo lengths and leave the leaf axils in place to grip the flower stem. It saves tying to a smooth stake.

Just another unnamed seedling (or JAUS, as we call them here)

Just another unnamed seedling (or JAUS, as we call them here)


Auratum bulbs do not respond well to drying out, even in their dormant season. This is why they are usually sold in bags of sphagnum moss or sawdust. Always try and buy them as soon as they come into garden centres in early winter and get them into the ground as soon as possible.
Orange tiger lilies growing through the espaliered apple trees

Orange tiger lilies growing through the espaliered apple trees

Our lily season starts with what we call the Christmas lily, or Lilium regale from China. It even Others sometimes refer to L. longiflorum as the Christmas lily. It is typically pure white and hails from Japan whereas L. regale has deep pink petal backs fading out to white. The orange tiger lilies with their reflexed petals follow soon after. They lack scent but they are a showy addition to the summer garden and very easy to grow. Next we get the aurelians – scented trumpet lilies in pretty gold and apricot shades. Most of ours have been raised from seed. They have a lovely elegance to them both in the garden and as a cut flower. You will notice their trumpets face outwards and downwards.
Aforementioned JAUS

Aforementioned JAUS

These are all but an overture to the main event – the glory of the auratums which take us through January and well into February. There is nothing subtle or understated about the flower power. Their common name is the “golden rayed lily of Japan”. How lovely is that?

???????????????????????????????First published in the New Zealand Gardener and reprinted here with their permission.

January bulbs for mid summer

Regular readers will know that we are very keen on bulbs here. As I surveyed the January ones, I figured that most bulbs are stars on their day. I guess because they are both seasonal and transient, they have to wow in their short time in the spotlight. A bulb in bloom can make you look in admiration, despite even the most unattractive location. We would not be without them.

The prized worsleya

The prized worsleya

Indubitably, the star this week is the unusual Empress of Brazil (Worsleya procera syn. rayneri) which does indeed hail from Brazil. It is an exotic showstopper. But the reason it is hardly ever seen is because it is rare in cultivation and requires a patient gardener. This particular specimen took 13 years from planting to bloom. There aren’t many gardeners willing to wait over a decade for a flower.

Scadoxus multiflorus ssp katherinae

Scadoxus multiflorus ssp katherinae

The Scadoxus multiflorus ssp katherinae are also big and showy but much easier to source, being very popular with Auckland landscapers. We have reached the point where they seed down and are naturalising themselves beneath trees where they have become a real feature in the summer shade garden. Some of those blooms are getting close to the size of human heads. We have South Africa and Zimbabwe to thank for these beauties.

Auratum lilies

Auratum lilies

In sunnier spots and on the margins, it is the lilies that astound. I wrote about the aurelians two weeks ago but it is now the time for the auratums (sometimes known as the golden-rayed lily of Japan). These can be sourced from garden centres in winter. Just make sure you never let the bulbs dry out, even when they appear dormant. If you give them lots of TLC for the first few years, you can increase numbers from the small offshoots as well as raising seed.

Gloriosa superba

Gloriosa superba

Gloriosa superba are often called climbing lilies, though they are only distant relatives at best. These are great plants for hot, dry conditions – the sort of spot many of us have under house eaves facing north. They flower for a long time in high summer and require absolutely no care at all beyond giving them something to cling to so they can climb rather than tumble.

Gladiolus

Gladiolus

Gladioli! Dahlias! We often take both families for granted but summer gardens would be poorer for their absence. We don’t have many of the Dame Edna hybrid gladdies. While there is a certain charm in their exuberant vulgarity, we are less enamoured of the rust that afflicts the foliage, making them unattractive plants. This white gladiolus is not a species, as far as we know, but it is somewhat further back up the breeding chain from the modern hybrids. Dahlias I tend to lump in with perennials though technically they are tubers, so within the bulb group.

Crinum moorei

Crinum moorei

The crinums are coming into flower and C. moorei is another shade garden option though it needs to be in a position where its rather large foliage can be ignored during the times when it is scruffy. These plants stand chest height, the fragrant flowers close to nose level so there is nothing small and dainty about them.

Add in the crocosmia featured last week, the tigridias in Plant Collector today, summer flowering ornithogalum, the yellow zephyranthes (‘rain lilies’), even the early Cyclamen hederafolium coming into flower. While January is not in any way peak bulb season, those in bloom add a great deal to the summer garden.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Summer is for lilies

Auratum lilies in the summer border

Auratum lilies in the summer border

Flowers mark the seasons for gardeners. To us, autumn means nerines. Winter is for camellias, late winter brings snowdrops, bluebells and magnolias. Spring means rhododendrons and cherry trees. And summer? Lilies are the flowers of summer.

Not roses. They look wonderful in late spring but by the time summer arrives, the roses are past their best. They tend to be happier in drier climates with low humidity, often with the advantage of cold winters to kill greeblies and fungi. To keep them looking good in warm, moist climates with high humidity requires a rigorous spray programme and good management. It can be done but we don’t do it.

But the lilies need no such fuss and they reward us with masses of blooms throughout the summer season, though to have a succession of them, you need to grow a range of different types. Fortunately there are plenty to choose from. There are well over 100 different species and that does not include the hybrids. Nor will I sidetrack onto plants that are referred to as lilies by name but are not lilies by nature – zantedeschia or arum lily, gloriosa or climbing lily, let alone daylilies and waterlilies.

We start with what we call the Christmas lily which is Lilium regale. It is a fragrant trumpet lily from China which is flushed deep red on the backs of the petals and is usually in flower for me to pick for the Christmas table. If you are thinking of a pure white Christmas lily (much favoured by florists), you are probably referring to Lilium longiflorum which hails from Japan. The renowned madonna lily, with its pure white trumpets, is yet another species (candidum) from southern Europe but it is distressingly prone to virus.

The Aurelian lilies are an earlier flowering favourite

The Aurelian lilies are an earlier flowering favourite

Dovetailing with the Christmas lily, we have some lovely, sweetly scented trumpet lilies of the Aurelian type. These are a personal favourite. I love the soft honey apricot and lemon colours of the ones we have here and they are easy to grow in a garden border. Like most lilies, they pick well.

The tiger lilies lack scent but are easy to grow

The tiger lilies lack scent but are easy to grow

The tiger lilies are pretty common and dead easy to grow but they lack scent, which can be a bit of a disappointment. If you can overlook that deficiency and you garden with orange tones, these lilies are perfect in mixed plantings. They rarely need staking and after flowering, the foliage dies down pretty quickly. The petals are described as reflex – in other words they curve backwards, not unlike a crown. There are a number of other lilies with this flower form (referred to as Turk’s cap lilies because they resemble a Turkish headpiece), but the tiger lily is in fact Lilium lancifolium, sometimes referred to as Lilium tigrinum. We don’t find the proper Turk’s caps (being L. martagon) anywhere near as easy to grow. If you know someone with tiger lilies, they produce masses of tiny bulbs (called bulbils) on the lower stem and these will reach flowering size in a couple of years.

All these lilies are but the prelude to the extended display we get from the astounding auratums. I wrote about these in Plant Collector over a month ago, the wonderful golden rayed lilies of Japan. They are still in full flight here and a major feature of the summer garden. They are big. They are beautiful. They are very fragrant. One might consider they are a bit over the top – but never vulgar. If planted by a path, they will need staking to stop every passerby being touched with golden pollen. Similarly, when a clump gets too congested, they will be inclined to fall over, unless staked. In garden borders or beds of tidy, compact little plants, the auratums will look out of place. But in big borders with big plants, they are superb. For us, they are the number one flower of summer.

The final flurry for the season comes from the late summer Lilium formasanum, which geographically inclined readers will understand means that these are indigenous to Taiwan. This is another scented trumpet type, predominantly white often flushed rosy pink on the petal backs, generally unfussy and commonly seen in gardens. Formasanum will seed down readily (too readily, some say, but we have never found it a problem) and grow even in semi shade and open woodland areas of the garden. It will flower in just its second year from seed. It makes a particularly good garden subject because its foliage is light and fine so it is not too intrusive in the dying down stages and it does not usually need staking.

I pick lilies to bring indoors. I love the way just one stem can scent an entire room for many days on end. Lilies produce the leaves and the flowering stem all on the same spike. It is important to remember when picking that you must leave sufficient stem and foliage for the bulb to continue photosynthesizing. This is how it builds up enough strength for it to flower again next year.

Lily pollen can stain badly. I am guessing florists carefully brush the pollen from each stamen, being careful not to allow any to fall and mark the petals. I nip off the pollen coated tips, leaving the central stamen. It seems a shame but I know from experience that I do not want to be trying to get pollen stains off carpet and upholstery. You have to keep doing it as buds open in the vase but it is a small price to pay for one of the very best cut flowers I can think of. (See comment below – rethinking these actions now.)

First published by the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Auratum lilies with lobelias

Auratum lilies with lobelias

Tikorangi Notes: Friday 3 February, 2012

Our pregnant gecko, Glenys, is back in view

Our pregnant gecko, Glenys, is back in view

Latest posts: Friday 3 February, 2012

1) The battle with the water weeds in Abbie’s column this week.

2) One for the dendrologists in Plant Collector this week – Pinus montezumae. It takes a bit to convince most New Zealanders that any pine tree is capable of being special but garden visitors do single our specimen of P.montezumae as being a tree out of the ordinary realm of the common pine.

3) Grow it yourself – silver beet. Some people are even alleged to enjoy eating this iron-rich but utility vegetable.

4) Welcome back Glenys, our highly prized but rather shy resident gecko. We are terribly excited by the evidence that we have a population of gecko in our garden, though that excitement does not appear to have been widely shared by others! But in this country, the small skinks are a common sight whereas our native gecko is nocturnal, elusive and rarely seen.

5) Check out the lily photo album I am building on our Facebook garden page. If you feel inclined to “like” the whole Facebook page, it would be most gratifying. Our popularity on Facebook lags behind the visitor numbers to our websites, and even the subscribers. This may of course just indicate that gardeners are less inclined to use social networks.

The auratum lily season is late this year, but no less spectacular for its delay

The auratum lily season is late this year, but no less spectacular for its delay

Tikorangi Notes: Friday 3 February, 2012

Oh summer, where art thou? Even the auratum lilies seem to be waiting for some real summer heat before opening fully in all their glory. This may go down in history as one of the coolest summers in recent history. On the bright side, the garden is very lush and green and working conditions are not unpleasantly hot. In fact, for Lloyd and I cleaning out the ponds and stream in our park, working conditions have been very pleasant. I just like a little searing heat to justify the fact we have a swimming pool. It has had precious little use so far this year.

Mark is very excited to see the blandfordia coming into flower. I have tried to photograph it but even by our standards, it is still looking a little too modest to boast about. It may look more notable when additional buds open. The reason for our excitement is that it was planted in the rockery by Felix Jury and as Felix died in 1997, it means it has been there for quite a long time and not doing very much. In fact, in all those years, it has only flowered twice before. Its third flowering is cause to celebrate.

Our Lloyd makes a prettier sight than I do when it comes to weeding the pond

Our Lloyd makes a prettier sight than I do when it comes to weeding the pond

Plant Collector: The golden-rayed lily of Japan (Lilium auratum)

The wonderfully fragrant auratum lily hybrids - hybridising and raising from seed keeps the plants healthy and reduces problems with virus

The wonderfully fragrant auratum lily hybrids - hybridising and raising from seed keeps the plants healthy and reduces problems with virus

The golden-rayed lily of Japan – what a beautifully evocative common name. We grow quite a few lilies here but it is the auratum hybrids that are the mainstay of our summer garden. These are the results of decades of breeding, first by Felix Jury and now by Mark. This particular pink one is a pleasing new selection from that breeding programme. There is no commercial gain in breeding these auratums. The aim is to extend the colour range and vigour so they perform better as plants in our own garden as well as keeping them free of virus, which is common. We also prefer outward facing flowers (rather than the upward facing blooms used in floristry) because that gives more protection from the weather.

The hybrids are bigger and showier than the species. This flower is over 30cm across so not for the shy or retiring gardener. The species are predominantly white with yellow or red streaks and crimson spotting. Hybridising extends that colour range into pure whites, white with dominant yellow markings, reds and pinks. We also want strong growing plants that can hold themselves up without needing to be staked every year and which will keep performing under a regime of benign neglect (which means digging and dividing every decade, not every second year). We grow them both in sun and on the woodland margins – wherever there are reasonable light levels, good drainage and soil rich in humus.

Auratums are offered for sale as dormant bulbs from time to time but they don’t like being dried out and dessicated so try and find ones which are plump and firm.

Saving the best for last: oh, the fragrance. The auratum lilies are one of the flowers I cut to bring indoors. A single stem has multiple blooms and can scent a large room all by itself. I remove the pollen which will stain everything it falls upon.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.