The Taiwan endemic, Lilium formosanum is just wrapping up its summer floral show in the garden. I’d be hard pressed to imagine a garden without this garden showstopper. The cluster of huge fragrant flowers top the 6-7′ tall, sturdy stalks, starting in early August. We allow a few seed to drop each year, which results in patches scattered around the garden. The fragrance is as sweet as any honeysuckle you can imagine. Soon, you’ll have enough to also fill your home with cut arrangements. Hardiness Zone 6a-10b.
After the flowers fade, the seed pods turn upward, making a classy candelabra that dries atop the stalk for a great winter ornament in the garden or they can also be used in dried arrangements.
We always look forward to the start of summer, when the summer lily show begins. These summer lilies include mostly Asiatic lilies, and their hybrids. Our particular interest are in lilies that are taller than 4′ and have pendant flowers. The shorter Asiatic lilies, and those with upright-held flowers may look great in a container, but they have little design value in a naturalistic style garden. Since some of the lilies are top heavy due to the massive weight of the flowers, we recommend varieties with sturdy stems.
Be sure you can stand the fragrance, since most hybrid lilies are so fragrant, they blow gardenias out of the water. Because these lilies have little foliage, they can be planted into masses of other plants without any detrimental effects. The flower stalks seemingly appear out of nowhere in early July, and fade into obscurity when they are finished.
Below are a few favorites we photographed recently in the garden.
We were thrilled to have Lilium bakerianum show up recently with a couple of flowers. This rare, dainty, woodland lily rarely exceeds 2′ in height. The arching stems are difficult to spot in the Chinese grasslands that they call home, unless you are lucky enough to catch them in flower. Lilium bakerianum, named after English botanist Edmund Gilbert Baker (1864–1949), is quite variable, and as such is divided into five distinct varieties.
Our plants, which are Lilium bakerianum var. rubrum, are located at the top of our crevice garden so they are easy to appreciate when walking below.
One of the plants we’ve grown and loved since the early days of JLBG is the amazing Lilium formosanum. We know without looking at a calendar that early/mid August has arrived, when the large fragrant flowers grace the garden, each perched atop 5-7′ tall stalks.
One of the June joys at JLBG is flowering season for Lilium x sulphurgale ‘Vico Gold’. We have grown to love the summer-flowering liliies for their ability to leap from the ground amongst a crowded landscape to provide a burst of color and fragrance during the heat of summer. Lilium ‘Vico Gold’ is not just a star, but it has a great back story. Alabama gardener Wade Mahlke shared this with us in 2013, from his trip decades earlier to the Switzerland garden of the now deceased Sir Peter Smithers. For those who haven’t read Sir Peter’s books, his career was as a spy in the British Secret Service, working for Ian Fleming. James Bond fans will certainly recognize the name. After his retirement, Smithers served in British Parliament before retiring to Switzerland, where he indulged his passion for gardening and plant breeding until his death in 2006 at age 93. Lilium ‘Vico Gold’ is his introduction of a hybrid of Lilium sulphureum and Lilium regale…a superb introduction that we’ve “bonded” with in the garden. It looks like we may be able to finally make it available through Plant Delights next spring.
Flowering now is our dwarf strain of Formosa lily from a seed collection at over 9000′ elevation in Taiwan. Lilium formosanum ‘Hehuan‘ stays at 2’ tall, and has lovely burgundy keeled flowers…delightful! It also comes true from seed.