Hayes & Harlington Gazette
Switch on the bulbs for summer
NOW IS THE TIME TO PLAN AHEAD – AND YOU CAN’T GO WRONG BY PLANTING SOME LILIES
AS we enter March, weather forecasters are predicting that we may get another wintry blast.
That won’t deter gardeners from planning and plotting summer colour, and packets of summer bulbs are starting to appear in gardening outlets, bulging with the promise of beautiful begonias and dahlias.
These will need to be kept protected until late spring when frost is less likely, but there is a hardy summer bulb, namely the lily, that can be planted right now.
Lily bulbs can be put in either in autumn or early spring and if you have heavy wet soil, it’s recommended to leave it until now so they are not sitting in soggy earth over winter.
They’re also a good bulb to plant in pots that can be placed within borders when they are in full bloom.
There they will add a touch of glamour and opulence – and then they can be stored backstage when the show is over.
To plant in pots, you could fit three bulbs in a container which is around five litres in size or nine inches in diameter across the top. Plant them deeply – three times the depth of the height of the bulb – and a couple of inches apart. Oriental lilies need acidic or ericaceous compost, while Asiatic and Turk’s Cap are happy in alkaline or neutral soil.
The soil should be rich but free draining so use a multi-purpose peat free compost and add grit to the soil or drainage to the bottom of the pot.
Mixing in a bit of garden soil is a good way to add some extra nutrients. Keep it moist but not saturated. Some of the taller varieties will need staking but the more compact types will support each other. Place with their heads in the sun and their feet in the shade. When they start to flower in summer, start regular liquid feeding to encourage more blossoms.
Watch out for the lily beetle – it’s easily identified by its scarlet appearance and will munch through buds, stems and leaves, so they need to be removed by hand.
They will often jump off when you try to get them so have one hand ready to catch them as they fall.
For fragrance, grow Oriental lilies. Asiatic varieties come in a wonderful variety of colours but usually have no scent.
One of the most beautiful and popular lilies is the royal version, Lilium regale. Its elegant white trumpet flowers are flushed with pink and have a strong fragrance.
Due to their height of more than a metre, they will require staking with either bamboo canes or ring supports.
Reaching far greater heights of nearly six feet is ‘Pretty Woman’ but this skyscraper lily has a sturdy stem so will support itself.
The pure white petals have a soft green throat and are sweetly scented.
This giant of the lily world has an Alice in Wonderland otherworldly charm and will stun your visitors!
Due to its size, it’s best planted straight in the ground, at the back of the border or as a focal point, where it will return bigger and better the following year.
All parts of the lily are very poisonous to cats so they are best avoided altogether if you have any as pets in the house.