Tag Archives: auratum lilies

Redoing the auratum lily border

Also known as the golden-rayed lily of Japan

The lily border is a great delight from mid-January on when the enormous blooms put on an entirely OTT display and the scent hangs heavy in the air. I planted it four years ago and looked at it this summer, thinking it needed a bit of attention. There were two or three areas which looked a bit sparse and others with a multitude of smaller bulbs starting to compete in the crowd. I shall lift and divide, I thought. I knew it would be a big job and thought maybe a solid week or ten days would do it.

Some thirty lineal metres of lilies

More fool me. The lily border is about 30 metres long and up to 2 metres wide. A few days in and I worked out I could achieve about 1.5 lineal metres a day. I had a lot of time to do the maths, you understand, and the time stretched out on account of my two trips to Tauranga and a week off with cataract surgery. It became a very boring exercise and it was through gritted teeth that I persevered until I reached the end this week.

What was moderately interesting was analysing the bulbs I lifted. I planted them all as single bulbs at about 20 centimetre spacings coming up to four years ago. That meant a lot of bulbs. Say 50 square metres all up at 25 bulbs per square metre – up to 1250 bulbs. Even if it is only 40 square metres of actual area in bulbs, that is a 1000. I didn’t buy them. Mark did some controlled crosses, picking good parents, raised the seed and put them in his vegetable patch for future use.

Ready to split down the middle, with two stems that flowered

Some bulbs had not increased much and were just setting babies on their stems. Some had clearly grown from seed in the first year or two before I started deadheading the border to reduce seeding.  Others were large bulbs with two flowering stems last summer and clearly ready to be split apart.

A full cluster of bulbs formed over just four years
You can see some of the small bulbs which would have developed into another ball of congested bulbs

Others had become clusters of bulbs sticking together like a soccer ball, yielding 12 to 15 bulbs from medium small through to large. They were remarkably impressive for just four years. Mark tells me this is the end result of those bulbs that set lots of babies down their stem, usually just below the level of the soil down to where the flower stem emerges from the bulb.

I split all the multiplying bulbs apart, replanting just the flowering sized ones into the freshly dug bed, each covered with a generous scoop of compost before returning the soil and then the aged mulch that I had raked to one side before digging. I aimed to get the bulbs fairly deep – up to 20cm down because if they are planted deeply, they are better at holding themselves up without staking. There is no way I am going to be staking 1000 lily stems. We retain the spent seasonal foliage on site to replenish the soil so I stripped any remaining leaves and cut most of the stems into short lengths about 5cm long so that they will rot down quickly. We finished it off with a tidy top layer of wood chip.

The smallest bulbs were discarded. The smallish ones that will take another year or two to flower, I gave away until I could find no more takers. Zach planted the rest of the littlies back in Mark’s vegetable area for me. It is my emergency supply, I told him and he laughed. Having just planted five rows – fairly short rows, I admit – he felt I should have plenty for any contingency.

Very bare, but done and tidy, in anticipation of next summer

We were served Lilium brownii in China when we were there in 2016 but I had not realised until Mark asked me to do a net search that all true lilies are edible and L. auratum is a traditional food in both Japan and China. With so many auratum bulbs here, we tried one. I broke the bulb apart into its component scales,  washed them thoroughly, tossed them in olive oil and roasted them. They are perfectly edible, texturally similar to chestnuts and with a flavour best described as inoffensive. They might be more exciting in a stir fry, preferably with added garlic but they are not sufficiently tasty for me to want to add them to our diet on a regular basis.

In fact, all parts of the lily are edible but I will not be harvesting the fresh shoots as an early summer green and eating the massive flowers seems a bit daunting. But should we get hit by famine, it is comforting to know that we have a generous additional food source here we can harvest at will.

I am a bit unconvinced at the thought of eating the flowers

Lily time in the Garden of Jury

Auratum lily time is a delight, a joy even. Showy, over the top, flamboyant but glorious. And we are just entering these weeks of glory.

We grow lilies in the better lit areas of woodland. They can get somewhat stretched reaching for the light so need more staking when not in full sun. I am rounding them up to limit the areas where we have them growing in order to make that seasonal staking task easier. But they certainly light up the woodland margins.

The new lily border has just opened its earliest flowers. These are the result of a determined and sustained effort to beat the pesky rabbits in spring.  Last year, it was about even stevens with the rabbits taking close to half of them. This year, we are almost at 100% reaching for the sky. Blood and bone works as a deterrent. So much promise of lilies to open in the next week. You will just have to imagine the glory of a border getting on towards fifty square metres of auratum lilies. The fragrance matches the blooms – strong, sweet and almost overpowering. None of this would have been possible or affordable were it not for Mark who is skilled both in pollinating good parent plants and then raising the seed to planting-out grade. Nor indeed were it not for my efforts in getting the planting out done on this new border. Being full sun, there is not much staking required in this area.

Almost all of ours are unnamed hybrids raised by father and son – first Felix and now Mark. Felix named a few that we used to sell but they are pretty mixed in the garden now. All are outward facing, not upward facing. That was one of the breeding aims. Upward facing lilies act as leaf and debris catchers and weather-mark badly.

Of them all, I think these soft, marshmallow pink ones of Mark’s raising may be my favourite. Or it could be another one in a few days’ time.

Finally, just in case there are any lily experts reading this: I assumed these trumpet lilies elsewhere in the garden are an unusual, honey-coloured L. regale.  Mark assumed they were Aurelians, based on their finer foliage.  Neither of us know where they came from so at this stage, we are assuming they are chance seedlings. They are very beautiful and I will move them to a prime spot in full sun but if anybody has more knowledge about lilies than we have, please tell us your theory on their likely classification.

I have measured out my year in flowers, not my life in coffee spoons (as did J Alfred Prufrock)

As 2018 draws to a close, I decided that I do not have anything to say on new year gardening resolutions that I have not said before. At a personal level, I am resolved to finally complete the two gardening books that have been percolating in my head for several years. This is the first time I have stated that intention publicly. One is at the point of being ready to hand over to an external editor, the other is still in progress. More on them, I hope, as they near publication.

Then the latest posts from a Canadian gardener, Pat Webster, landed in my inbox, charting her garden through the year. I was a bit gobsmacked at four months of snow on the ground. It snowed here once. That is once in recorded history.  I am not sure what I would do in a climate with months of snow. I guess one switches to indoor pursuits.

It is different here where we garden all year round and can expect flowers every day of the year. I have thousands of photographs so finding 12 different garden scenes representing a month each took a bit of effort. It would have been much easier had I just gone for flower close-ups but some readers may like to see the different contexts. Best viewed on a larger screen, of course…

Firstly, January is for lilies. We like our lilies, a whole range of different types, but none more so than the golden Aurelians opening now, to be followed by the OTT auratums which we have in abundance. The new lily border should be a show-stopper this year after our concerted efforts to outwit Peter Rabbit and his extended family, but in the meantime, I give you the auratums in the woodland – planted maybe two decades ago and left entirely to their own devices in the time since.

February is peak summer here, when we get the most settled and warmest weather. And the Scadoxus multiflorus ssp katherinae are just astounding in the same woodland area as the previous photo.  We never planted anywhere near this number. Over the years, they have just gently seeded down and taken over an entire area, so happy are they in our conditions. There aren’t too many people around this country who have scadoxus naturalised in their garden.

March is still summer here although the day length is shortening and the nights noticeably cooler. It used to be a very green time for us, because we have so much woodland garden and there is not a whole lot of high impact flowering in later summer woodland. We went to England three times to look at summer gardens and it is the sunny perennials that flower into this time. It has been really exciting putting in a large summer garden in full sun. I am extremely impressed by the echinaceas which flower from December to April and I have a very soft spot for the blue eryngium, even if I often need to put a stake in to hold them upright.

By April, we can no longer pretend that summer will go on forever. The flowering of the Nerine sarniensis hybrids, the Cyclamen hederafolium and other autumn bulbs in the rockery tell us that time waits for no gardener and early autumn is upon us. We have long spring and autumn seasons in our part of the country.

May brings us the early camellias in bloom, in this case Camellia sasanqua ‘Crimson King’ at the mill wheel bird bath just out from the back door. So too do the months right through to early October bring us camellias, but with advent of camellia petal blight, it is the early flowers that are the showiest, most abundant and the most charming now, which mostly means the sasanquas and quite a few of the species.

June is early winter here. Definitely winter. I could have chosen Mark’s Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ which flowers on and on through the winter months, but instead I picked Vireya Rhododendron macgregoriae.  This particular plant has a special history for us and, unusually for a vireya, it flowers like clockwork every June and July. Most of this plant genus are less predictable in their flowering times, despite their trigger being day length, not temperature. As a result, we have vireyas flowering twelve months of the year, though we do have to place them in frost-free locations on account of them being subtropical.

July is our bleakest, coldest month. But there is light ahead. July brings us snowdrops and by the end of the month, we have the earliest blooms opening on both the deciduous magnolias and the early michelias. Nothing shouts spring more than the earliest spring blooms. Mark would like some galanthus varieties that flowered later in the season as well and he has tried all that are available, but none of them compete with Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ for showy and reliable performance and the ability to naturalise in his bulb meadows that are a long-term project.

August – yes there is a lot of snow on our Mount Taranaki. All the better to frame our Magnolia campbellii. There is well over 30km between the maunga (as we call the mountain) and our tree but each year I get out with my camera to close up the gap, as viewed from the path down to the park.

I gave September to the prunus, the flowering cherries. It is probably the campanulatas that are the showiest and they flower in August and I had already allocated that month to magnolias. But we grow quite a range of flowering cherries and this one is down in our wild North Garden, an area that we find particularly charming at this time of the year.

October is mid spring. And for October, I chose the clivias yellow, orange and red, seen here with Hippeastrum papilio and dendrobium orchids in the Rimu Avenue. As I selected photos, I realised I was leaning to what we might call our backbone flowering plants – the ones we have a-plenty. Not all of them. I had to skip the azaleas, the michelias, the campanulatas and the hydrangeas owing to my self-imposed restrictions of one per month.

November brings us peak nuttallii and maddenii rhododendrons. The rhododendrons start in August, sometimes the first blooms as early as July, and flower well into December. But the beautiful nuttallis and maddeniis peak in November and are a source of great delight.

Finally, December is marked by the Higo iris down in the meadow in our park. What prettier way to end the calendar year? And gardening being what gardening is, we start the cycle again with a new year. Best wishes to all readers for a happy and rewarding 2019.

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.


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