There are always compensations…


What a strange year it has been. The meadow is flat and wet; the potatoes, onions and shallots rotted in the ground, and the courgettes barely grew before they got covered by mildew. The slugs ate everything else, even if they did move me to song.

But my lilies – oh, my lilies.

They’re fabulous.

Most of them are in pots and have been for years, but I did decide that some would be happier in the ground and moved them into the small bed around my sundial, where they flourish. They’re a bit shorter than the others (wait for it), but they do seem to like it.

And yes, I’ve still got a sundial, despite being assured by a writer in a current gardening magazine that ‘no one has sundials any more’. (They don’t have urns either, apparently. I’ve news for her.)

When I say ‘shorter’, I mean they’re about 3 feet or so, maybe a little less. Not that short, really. I do have a candidate for the tallest lily in Britain this year, and it’s not a Cardiocrinum, it’s just an ordinary Oriental hybrid. It’s as tall as my door – and that’s over 6 foot.

Its friend – the one in the foreground above; Big Boy can just be glimpsed in the background – is almost the same height as me, but then I am only 5 foot. Still, no slouch for a lily. I had to move the pots into the relative shelter of the porch recently when we had terrible winds; not surprisingly the pots are a little, um, top heavy, and they blew over. Happily I heard them go – it was 5.30 am, and I had just been woken up by the recycling guys – and was able to affect a rescue in my jim-jams before they blew around too much and broke. I always, but always, forget to consider this possibility. It’s not the first time I’ve been fiddling around in the garden in my pyjamas at an ungodly hour, staggering about in the teeth of a howling gale with great big pots in my arms. Fortunately I don’t think my neighbours would film me and post the evidence on YouTube, but you never know…

Anyway, the overloaded pots are now by the back door (no one uses the front door, after all, and this time I’m not being ironic), and can be smelled before you even open the gate. Plus they’re comparatively sheltered. And I have been able to tie Big Boy to a down pipe. Hopefully it will now stay where it is…

It’s good to be greeted by their magnificent flowers. This is BB’s friend,

and this is Big Boy:

They’re not actually called that, of course.

Unfortunately I haven’t a clue what either of them actually are, or indeed what any of them are, and this time it’s not down to my usual dilatory approach to recording purchases. I genuinely don’t know. Not because they were gifts or sudden anonymous donations, but because they were added extras.

For several years one large seed company had a special offer – spend XXX and get YYY free. On a few occasions the YYY was lilies and I could never resist, but they never ever came with a label. Or, indeed, any indication of colour, which has led to the odd confusion:

which I keep meaning to sort out. I’d like more of all of these,  but then I’d like even more lilies, full stop. However, I do realise that I have got plenty, thank you very much, and I really, really really don’t need any more. No matter how entertaining it might be for the neighbours when the pots blow over.

I’m particularly fond of the colours of the one on the right, by the way – individually. I’m not sure about them in combination:

I love the lime green in the centre. It’s normal for many lilies, of course, but it seems more emphatic here with the primrose yellow. Even so, you barely notice it until you really look, and yet it’s quite a shocking contrast with the dinky pink as well. This particular lily makes me think of ice lollies and little girls’ bedrooms. Right, that’s it – this year I am going to sort out this pot.

One last gem, another of the sundial lilies, but slightly paler:

Who cares about the shallots?

And now it’s raining – sorry, that should really be it’s RAINING – and they’ll all look a bit ratty in the morning. Sigh.

And I am not buying any more lilies. Not one. Not even if they are ‘free’…


22 Comments Add yours

  1. Dobby says:

    I got three lily bulbs from Aldi I think it was and they have been superb over the last 2 years. They are in the ground, but I now lift them in the winter and put them in pots as my ground is so wet. I haven’t a clue what they are, but delight in their cheerful faces blooming in the garden. They must be happy as they throw out new bulblets each spring. Fingers and everything else crossed, I seem to have defeated the dreaded red lily beetle!

    1. kate says:

      I shall keep a look out for them – I hardly ever think of checking Aldi or Lidl, and yet I’ve had some good things from there. I just get distracted by food!

      (Shhhhh… no lily beetle here either…..)

  2. paulinemulligan says:

    Our lilies have also had a good year but none has grown as tall as your Big Boy, that is amazing. Mine are in pots in the porch to keep them fairly dry in the winter and then dropped into the borders in the spring, mind you, it has been wetter this summer than last winter! Do you have red lily beetle where you are, I seem to have killed so many this year!

    1. kate says:

      Well, I keep looking for the dreaded LB, but no sign so far. I can’t think why not, but I’m really keeping my fingers crossed. Big Boy has been large before, but never quite this big. I hope the others don;t get ideas – most of my convenient down pipes are occupied by water butts.

  3. It is indeed raining now – well, raining is putting it lightly – howling gale and lashing water, so I trust that your lilies are snug and safe, they look glorious. I do think that the lilies have been particularly good this year.
    I am not sure why you are not buying any more lilies they give a lotta bang for a buck, and you can always pick them up quite cheaply at the end of the bulb season …..

    1. kate says:

      They’re a bit bashed, I’m afraid, and stained with pollen… buy there you go. Think I’d better extend my range and add a few. Just one or two…

  4. wellywoman says:

    Oh god it’s tipping it down here but at least your lilies have brightened up my study. I always say each year I’ll try some lilies and never do. Well I may well have to get myself into gear and get some this time because they are stunning. I’m dreaming of a lily scented patio on a warm balmy evening. *sighs wistfully* It would be nice in late august to be sat on my patio enjoying the late summer, rather than stomping around in wellies in the pouring rain snipping slugs and collecting the ‘too big to snip’ ones and putting them in a bucket of salt water.

    Hope the lilies survive this weekend’s weather.

    1. kate says:

      Go for it!
      Hah, hah, hah, lily-scented patio, balmy evening???? It’s a theory, I suppose, and you never see lilies tied to downpipes in Garden Illustrated (but I reckon that’s only because they untie them just before the photographer arrived).

      My, you are nasty to slugs. I just throw them at tourists. Not deliberately, she added, hurriedly…

  5. patientgardener says:

    I love lilies and have had some gorgeous ones. However last year the lily beetles were definitely winning and the plants were a mess, then I got a cat and was told that lily pollen is lethal for cats so I got rid of them. It was funny though as the lilies had nearly gone over when I got the cat and she was restricted to where she could go to start with (well that was the plan) so I was struggling with a pot of 6ft lilies and carrying them through the garage to the front of the house. I doubt there was any pollen left on them by the time I had finished. If you dont have lily bettle problems I would get more and enjoy them as they are just so decadent and as Karen says cheap

    1. kate says:

      I’ve not spotted a lily beetle yet…. though I am going to zoom out and check things over just to be sure.

      I grew lilies for years with a large and very healthy quartet of cats and never had a problem…
      Well, as usual with cats there were problems – mostly connected to murders and doing bad things in other people’s gardens – but never any related to the lilies. Related to Volvos, yes (head-butting, Madam was fine though Volvo driver a bit shocked); fresh tarmac (treading in it); waking up all the street at four in the morning by walking along the parapet and shouting in people’s open windows like a furry band of feckin’ banshees – yes. Lilies, no. I’m just surprised the neighbours didn’t give us great bunches of them.

  6. Kate beautiful lilies, I was introduced to lilies by receiving 2 lots as free gifts when ordering other plats and they have done better than some of the ordered plants! this was 8-9 years ago as I love them last year I decided to order some from the same company as I got the free ones, what grew was not the lily on the label, not all grew and the free tulips that were sent with them have grown better than the ordered lilies! I would get more if you like them but becareful where from, some of mine grow over 6ft. too, as I had an aunt Lily I think of mine as shes, Frances

    1. kate says:

      Maybe your lilies were from the same people as my lilies – it wasn’t Thompson and Morgan, was it? The timing fits, anyway… And yes, you’re right, I do need more lilies (why I should think of them as male, I’m not sure. Maybe it was something to do with falling over and having to be helped up by a woman, but that probably says more about my friends than it does about lilies)!

      1. mine were from J Parkers, I’ve stopped buying from them as I have had so many plants and bulbs not grow, Frances

        1. kate says:

          Not Thompson and Morgan, then. Interestingly, I’ve had the same problem with J Parkers – I’m treating myself to Blom’s this year. When I get round to it!

  7. Christina says:

    I love the perfume of lilies especially outside in the garden, indoors it can be too strong. Your lilies are perfect, enjoy them in this year that has been difficult for gardeners everywhere. Christina

    1. kate says:

      Oh, I do agree – far too powerful and sultry for indoors (in fact, it’s a bit much outside sometimes).

      My lilies now have vitally no petals left on them. Am thinking of building an ark. Well, they were lovely while they lasted!

  8. Crystal says:

    Your lilies look beautiful, even if you don’t know their names. I labelled all mine this year, but the birds didn’t agree with that. I’ve now got pots of unlabelled lilies and a pile of labels on the ground.

    1. kate says:

      Oh, I know that scenario! I carefully labelled everything in my new bed, and found the tags had been strewn all over the garden – looked like the jackdaws had been having a toffs’ dinner party with bread-roll throwing. But that doesn’t explain how I can carefully label my tomatoes, and then have completely different toms come up even though the labels haven’t moved… One for Mulder and Scully?

  9. hillwards says:

    Love that opening shot. I do admire lilies, such showstoppery divas, but the hubby can’t be within about thirty feet of them before his airways constrict rather severely. What with him and the cats, lilies aren’t ever likely to grace our gardens. Not unless we have a really serious falling out, anyway 😉 Even the scent of our tobacco plants and evening primroses push his poor olfactory/respiratory system to the limits on a dusk stroll around the garden.

    1. kate says:

      They are complete divas – that’s soooo the perfect description (and right now mine are sulking because they got rained on, though in all fairness they were going over). What a shame about the cat/man problem, but I do sympathise – they really, really smell. And when they’re at their strongest it is overwhelming. Now all they smell of is wet vegetation. Sigh.

      If I find you posting about planting lilies I shall warn the police immediately!

  10. I adore lilies, but absolutely hate (shh, whisper it…) lily beetles. My lilies always got devastated by them in my last garden, so I gave up. Of course the lilies a dear friend sent as a house warming gift that have been filling the house with scent for weeks, had already got me tempted. And now this, from you. And you say you don’t have the L. B.s. Which might mean that I wouldn’t have them either. I think the least you can do in return for waving such temptation in front of me is buy some new ones yourself!

    1. kate says:


      The first thing I ought to say is that while I haven’t got LB (whisper it low), plenty of people round here do. I’m wondering if being higher up the hill – and therefore windier – can make a difference? So don’t buy lots of lilies assuming they’ll be fine – eek…

      But two swallows can sometimes make a summer, and you’ve got your lovely housewarming gift as a second swallow…. hmmm. And I’m giving in; it’s time to refresh my lilies!

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.