This section is from the book "Beautiful Gardens - How To Make Them And Maintain Them", by Walter P. Wright. Also available from Amazon: Beautiful Gardens: How To Make And Maintain Them.
Amongst the noblest of summer flowers, Liliums are rightly receiving special attention from flower lovers. They have, however, escaped the questionable honour of being specialised for exhibition. It is rarely that they are shown except in trade groups, although they are sometimes included in competing stands of hardy flowers.
The Lilium is a great, unsullied garden flower, which stands as a living proof that native worth may suffice, without artificial exhibition aid, to make a plant lastingly popular. Auratum, the Queen of the genus, leaped into favour on the very day that it was first exhibited, and its career since has been a triumphal march. Giganteum, with its lofty stems crowned by pure white flowers, has nearly as many followers, although, if pot culture be included, it is out of the race. Speciosum (lancifolium), wrongly regarded as a quite tender Lily, and consequently grown almost exclusively in pots, is a good garden plant, and the same may be said of longiflorum.
Brownii is not so familiar as some, but its worth as a garden plant is ensuring it a steady advance. Candidum, the Madonna or Old White Garden Lily, is amongst the cheapest, purest, and sweetest. It is probably over-cultivated, as in rich borders it is frequently diseased, whereas in the undisturbed borders of cottage and farmhouse gardens it thrives. It needs very early planting in autumn.
The Orange Lily, croceum, is grown in many gardens to the exclusion of really beautiful sorts. This is unfortunate, as it is essentially a vulgar flower, flamboyant and aggressive in its colouring. If it has a claim, it is that it will often thrive in cat-haunted, man-muddled suburban gardens, where any plant with a particle of self-respect would die in despair. A Lily equally bright, but of a more refined tone of colour, is Chalcedonicum. Elegans (Thunbergianum), too, and Martagon (the latter the brilliant Turk's Cap) have colour enough for anyone, without being so irritating as the pushful croceum.
Two very pretty yellow Lilies are Hansoni and Henryi, the latter being the warmer in hue. They have not so large a following as the bigger Lilies, but they are good in their way, though mainly grown in pots. Humboldtii, too, the yellow flowers of which are spotted with purple, is a useful species. Pardalinum, the Panther Lily, is a very richly coloured plant; and a very pretty and pleasing species is the pink rubellum, which is a dwarf grower, and very easy to succeed with. Sulphureum, pale yellow; and testaceum, marked yellow, come into the second or third rank; the former is not quite hardy. The Tiger Lily, tigrinum, with its red, black spotted flowers, is a good garden plant; and so is the red umbellatum.
The growing popularity of Liliums has led to a great deal of attention being given to the production of new forms. Many of the species have been crossed, and we now have a series of useful hybrids, some of the best of which are named in the selections at the end of the present chapter. This work will go on, and may be expected to greatly enrich our collections in the course of years. In addition to the acquisitions from this source, we are happy in the possession of many beautiful varieties, which are even more valuable than their parents. Of auratum, for instance, we have noble varietal forms in platyphyllum, rubro-vittatum, and Wittei. The best of these are also named in the selection.
Here, then, is a brief glance at the most valuable components of the fine genus Lilium, and we may now consider methods of turning such splendid material as it gives us to the best advantage in the garden. Lovers of Rhododendrons who do their favourite shrub well may count on particular success with auratum and its lovely bevy of daughters by making bays for them in the beds. The Rhododendrons give the young growths shelter from sharp winds, and the peat and loam afford the Lily a food perfectly to its taste. The same conditions suit the stately giganteum, which lifts its snowy bells 10 feet or more into the air when it is suited by the soil and position. In neither case must the plants be overgrown. The Rhododendron is not the only evergreen with which these majestic Lilies can be associated, provided peat and loam bulk largely in the compost.
Herbaceous borders offer natural homes for Liliums, and the great majority will thrive in well-drained, loamy soil. The manured clay which gives such splendid results with the great majority of herbaceous plants will also suit a good many, but it should be lightened with loam, peat, and sand for auratum and giganteum. Useful Lilies like candidum, speciosum, tigrinum, elegans, and umbellatum, with their varieties, will thrive in light, sandy soils. When planted in borders, the choicer sorts ought to be placed in positions where they will receive shelter from the rising stems and expanding foliage of early growing plants. This attention often has a greater bearing on success than any other cultural item, as it prevents the early crippling which so often has lasting ill-effects on Lilies.
Care should be taken that the bulbs do not get dry before planting, or make premature growth. The former remark has special reference to auratum, of which imported bulbs are planted in thousands every year. The author has handled a good many of these bulbs, and he finds that the best thing is to carefully examine each one as it is removed from its casing, pick off any rotten scales, rub flowers of sulphur into decaying patches, and then bury the bulbs in a box of moist sand or cocoanut fibre refuse for a few days in order to freshen them up. If then planted about 4 inches deep in sandy loam they will generally grow very strongly. The danger of premature growth is most serious with candidum. This Lily is imported in a dormant state by the dealers in cases, and often comes to hand late in August or in September. It ought to be bought and planted before the summer is out, as if it grows in the boxes in seedsmen's shops it is certainly not improved for the garden.
Lilies of doubtful hardiness, such as speciosum and Henryi, may have some dry, cool litter spread over the stools when winter approaches, to serve as a protection in hard weather.