Tag Archives: Lilium formasanum

Late summer inspirations from the graveyard

I returned to the main cemetery of New Plymouth yesterday. As the season advances inexorably into what is already showing signs of late summer, I wanted to see what was in bloom. “Was She who is the Phantom of the Graveyard there?” Mark asked. He had a personalised tour last month from the bright and bubbly person who wishes to remain anonymous and unacknowledged but who has beavered away there for many years now. These days more volunteers have come forward to join her and it is a lovely place to visit.

Why go there rather than our public gardens to see what is in flower? I am delighted by what is the grown ups’ version of the miniature gardens our children used to make for Show Day in their junior school years. Grave-sized gardens, in fact, which are styled individually, often from donated plants. It is an interesting place to look at plant combinations, plant performance under a light maintenance regime (the area is huge) and incidents of serendipity.

I am planning a meadow for our new Court Garden but, influenced by the Pictorial Meadows excellence in the UK, I want to select plants that will bloom in succession from spring to autumn. At this time of summer, we are not as flowery here as earlier in the season and I was wondering what we could consider. There weren’t many answers for me as far as the proposed meadow is concerned because I think I want to at least start that with mostly annuals and biennials rather than perennials and bulbs in order to achieve the meadow look as opposed to herbaceous plantings. But there was plenty of other interest amongst the graves.

Canna liles star in these small, grave-sized gardens

Cannas and dahlias were the stars yesterday morning. I am not a fan of cannas. They are too big, dominant and blobby for our tastes here and they don’t die down gracefully. But they are certainly showy and the colour range surprised me – from whites and pale lemons through paler pinks to bright, vibrant showstopper blooms. I can admire them without needing to grow them. In fact, I prefer to admire them elsewhere.

Gaura – they do indeed dance like butterfies in the breeze

The gaura looked terrific. Ethereal even, waving in the light breeze like clouds of butterflies. I must try again with these now we have more open areas of garden in full sun. And as I admired the combination of pink lavatera and tall cosmos, I realised again that it is the lightness and movement that I want in our newer meadow and perennial plantings. The romantic prairie look, Mark just called it. That is why I am not so keen on the ponderous cannas.

Hibiscus trionum

One grave was covered in Hibiscus trionum and it was the most eye-catching display of this pretty plant that I have seen.

Lilium formasanum reaching two metres tall

We had been talking about Lilium formasanum the previous day. While it is regarded as a weed in this country and banned from sale, we are quite happy to let it pop up around our place. It is one of those plants that I think in time we may come to accept as a permanent addition to our environment. I assume its weed status is on account of its seeding ways and its ability to pop up in all sorts of situations. We are increasingly of the view that we must learn to live with many of these interlopers and only wage chemical warfare on those that endanger our natural flora – the likes of Clematis vitalba (old man’s beard), Japanese knot weed and, in the area where we live, giant gunnera and pampas grass. The Formosan lily was looking right at home and picture perfect amongst the graves. It is a beautiful flower, though without the heady fragrance of many other lilies.

The belladonnas were also in bloom, as they are on our road verges and wilder margins of the garden here. They are so common we take them for granted, but if you look afresh at them each season, they are a lovely late summer bloom.

Alstomeria flower on and on, seen here with plumbago

In terms of bangs for the buck, alstromerias work hard. I need more of these. Not for the meadow but for my hot summer border. And definitely not the modern over-bred varieties that have been shrunk down to be bedding plants. I want more of the big, tall ones in clear reds, yellows and orange colour mixes. They seem to bloom from spring to autumn and that is not to be sniffed at, as long as you can contain their wandering ways.


All I came up with for my meadow in the end were rudbeckias to go with the amaranthus that has already established itself as a naturalised wildflower here. I may use the Lilium formasanum, despite it being a bulb and I had already decided I wanted the white Japanese anemone in big swathes, despite it being perennial. I simply love the romance of the windflowers. They need to be managed. In a garden situation they can be thuggish and invasive but I think I can mange them in the meadow.

Butterflies, bees and no doubt a host of other insect and bird life inhabit these gardens

Graveyards can be austere, grim places and parts of the Te Henui are of this stark nature, maintained only by weed spray and lawn mowing. But the areas full of these small gardens, flowers and trees lift the spirits and it is clear the public love walking through. Each tap has a little watering receptacle for dogs which was an endearing sight. It is worth a visit and I hope our elected Council officers and paid staff appreciate the special character that the volunteers, led by the dedicated Phantom of the Graveyard, have bestowed upon this place of memories. Some of us even go there for inspiration. Life, growth, flowers and community engagement in amongst death.

Windflower romance – the white Japanese anemones

Banned plants in New Zealand

The offending Lilium formasanum

The offending Lilium formasanum

I have to start with a mea culpa today. Last Friday I featured Lilium formasanum on Plant Collector. I wouldn’t have done so had I known it was on the Pest Plant Accord list. In other words, it is banned from propagation and sale in this country.

To be honest, we are a bit surprised it is on the banned list. While it seeds down, in our experience it does so gently and has never shown invasive tendencies here and it is not strong enough to out-compete native plants that we can see. However, we respect the spirit of the Pest Plant Accord and I would not have praised the merits of this lily had I known.

Being on that list, does not mean it has to be eradicated – just that it can’t be produced for sale and that gardeners should be cautious with it. My general advice is that if you live near native bush or a reserve and certainly near a national park, the responsible action to take is to get rid of these plants from your garden altogether. In more suburban areas, it is not likely to be a problem but keep an eye on what they are doing and don’t let them escape. You also need to be careful what you do with garden waste because too many of our weeds are garden escapes.

So embarrassed was I at having been caught out making a public slip-up that I started to browse the National Pest Plant Accord booklet, the website of the Ministry for Primary Industries and some of the regional council websites. After encountering some of the most confused and badly designed websites I have seen in a while, I rang our local pest plant person to confirm my interpretations. There are no simple answers and there is a wonderful level of inconsistency in language, classifications and recommendations. It is all as clear as mud really. So here is my attempt to translate it to home gardener level.
The handy little spiral-bound book entitled the National Pest Plant Accord is a listing agreed to by various bodies including the Nursery and Garden Industry Association of NZ. You can request a copy of this booklet from the Ministry or your regional council. It has photos and descriptions (one plant per page) but no advice on dealing to individual plants – every page tells you to contact your regional council for this advice. The plants included are a little… random, shall I say. Lilium formasanum is there but I don’t know where it is a particularly problematic weed.

Curiously, Rhododendron ponticum is also included. Now, R. ponticum is a blue rhododendron species that has been used extensively to breed many of the big blue hybrid rhododendrons favoured by gardeners. It is a real problem in the UK where it has established itself in the wild by layering and seeding but I am not aware of it ever being produced much, if at all, in the nursery trade in this country because the hybrids are so superior. The hybrids are not a problem. In other words, ponticum is not a problem in this country but it could be if we let it get established. Well, if this Pest Plant Accord were to include every potential weed in the world that could establish here, it would be a massive tome.

We have not cut our bangalows out at this stage, but we are alarmed at their weed potential

We have not cut our bangalows out at this stage, but we are alarmed at their weed potential

But the Accord misses out on some significant plants because the nursery industry has dug its toes in and refused to play ball. I have written before about the bangalow palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana) which we regard as having significant pest potential, and we are not alone in that opinion. Similarly the Chinese Windmill Palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) is pretty questionable but so strong in the trade that it may never make the Accord. We’d say the same about the Himalayan Daphne bholua too.

The problem with the Accord is that it is national and what is a significant or major weed in one area, may not be at all problematic in another. That is where the regional councils come in. As far as I know, their pest plant lists are not dependent on cooperation from the nursery industry and being based on local experience, they are more relevant to local gardeners.

In Northland there are huge issues with seedling campanulata cherries and I have been told that only sterile varieties can be sold there now. Similarly Buddleia davidii and agapanthus, but they are not on the national Accord. Taranaki completely bans both species of the giant Chilean rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria and manicata) and insists on total removal.

Waikato Regional Council has lists on its website though you do have to know the common name (often confusing) because apparently it is too complicated to list under both botanical and common names on the directory page. Plants are classified as eradication (Council will deal to it for you), containment (landowner’s responsibility), potential pest and merely nuisance status (presumably waiting to move up the ranks). There is information on how to deal to these plant pests. A quick look suggests that not many of them are common garden plants (though we will be getting rid of our yellow flag irises here), but it is worth having a look.

I just can’t help but think that some analytical thinking, better writing, consistency of information and good website design would make this stuff a whole lot more useful for responsible gardeners. These are important issues but the powers-that-be haven’t made it easy to use the information.

The days are numbered here for the yellow flag iris

The days are numbered here for the yellow flag iris

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

Plant Collector: Lilium formasanum

An update on this story is in Banned Plants. Somewhat to my embarrassment, it appears that Lilium formasanum is on the pest plant list in NZ and banned from sale.

The last of the lilies to flower

The last of the lilies to flower

The last of the lilies for the season is flowering now. Lilium formasanum hails, as older readers and plants people will know, from the island of Taiwan, which was formerly known as Formosa. It is another trumpet type of lily. Ours are all seedlings scattered through parts of the garden now and essentially white. Some forms have more of a pink to purple flush or streaking on the backs of the petals. The stems can be tall at up to 1.8m so it is easiest to have them growing amongst other plants which can give some support. I admit our self sown seedlings tend to flop around and need to be leaned up against nearby shrubs where there are some available.

As with lilies in general. L. formasanum prefers full sun but is not fussy about soil types. In fact it is not fussy about much at all and gently seeds down through our open woodland areas, flowering freely in late summer. By open woodland, I mean a high leafy canopy which allows good light levels but no direct sun. Unlike many other bulbs, formasanum does not take long to flower from seed. Where it has seeded down naturally, we think that it flowers two years from seed but according to bulb expert, Terry Hatch, if you gather the seed when it is ripe in autumn and sow it in early spring, you can get it flowering by late summer. That is a quick turnaround though you will only get a single flower, not the cluster in that first year. Its light foliage means that it will die down gracefully in autumn and yes it does have a scent, though only a light one.

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