Author Archives: lakeside67

A lesson learned: why I don’t grow lilies in the ground

I adore lilies of many kinds: true lilies, Day lilies, Peruvian lilies, anything lily-esque, in fact, and I’m grateful to be in a place where I can grow them all reasonably successfully.

But whilst I’ve always been happy to sling most kinds out into the borders to take their chance – especially Day lilies, which are as tough as old boots! – I’ve never felt inclined to do that with true lilies, ie. Lilium species, and have always chosen to grow them in pots.

This is for two main reasons.

Firstly, keeping them in containers allows for precise control of the growing media, which needs to be moist but relatively free-draining. My garden soil, despite improvement over the years, tends to waterlog in winter and dry out too easily in summer, so my assumption has always been that it would not provide reliably favourable conditions for lily cultivation.

Secondly, growing in containers enables me to keep a much closer watch on pests, mainly slugs, snails and lily beetles, all of which are a massive nuisance in most years. Being able to lift and turn the pots means that I can inspect them from all angles, which would be extremely awkward if they were planted in the ground. Also, I am prepared to use slug pellets in containers since the victims do not travel far and I can dispose of them without hedgehogs, birds etc. coming into contact with them, which means that I can effectively protect the succulent new shoots of lilies at their most vulnerable time. I prefer not to use metaldehyde pellets on the ground, so anything planted in the borders has to survive without that protection, and I’ve always assumed lilies would struggle with that.

But this spring, having some spare lily bulbs to hand, I decided to try a little experiment.

The previous summer I foolishly purchased 10 lily bulbs (from a shopping channel, as it happens) which had supposedly been held back so that when planted, would flower in October/November time and provide a most unusual and unseasonal display.

Of course, they did nothing of the sort, and not one flower deigned to appear before the first frost in November cut them down, so I then had to decide what to do with them – they would likely flower at the normal time in the next year (June/July), so they were definitely worth keeping.

Having weighed up my options for a while, I chose to re-plant 5 in a large pot and put the other 5 out into the ground to see how they would do.

I duly prepared the soil by digging in compost and manure, along with a handful of granular feed for good measure, planted the bulbs at twice their depth, and crossed my fingers.

Both sets were delayed by the low temperatures we experienced in the early part of the season, but eventually they got going, and initially there was little difference between them.

However, as soon as the slugs and snails began to be active, it became apparent that emerging lily stems are every bit as appealing to them as I thought they would be. Those in the pot, which I pelleted, remained unharmed, but I quickly lost 4 out of the 5 in the ground, eaten to nothing more or less overnight. Whether they have completely given up the ghost or will try to re-grow next year, I don’t know – I might have a dig around and see if there’s anything left that I can salvage.

As for the survivor, even though it has grown, it doesn’t look at all healthy:


It is small, and the yellowing of the leaves suggests a deficiency to me, possibly iron. My soil is mildly alkaline, and this might be a more acid-loving species – I don’t actually know which one it is, unfortunately.

The lack of vitality is especially obvious when compared to the pampered pot-grown specimens:


No contest, really. The plants are much taller, the foliage is a rich green and the flowerbuds are much larger and fatter.

So it would appear that in my garden, lilies in pots are definitely the way to go if I want to avoid massive losses and produce healthy plants, which, of course, I do!

A lesson learned, indeed.


Propagating lilies: 6th update

I thought it might be time once again to show my motley collection of tree lilies, originally propagated from a handful of scales back in September 2014.

Though they were all started at the same time from a single bulb, they vary considerably in their development: some are only a few inches high, whilst others are much taller and about to bear a flower for the first time!

Here they are as a group:


And here are some closer shots:

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The bulblets all seemed to be of very similar size when I potted them on into their current containers, so how they’ve ended up like this I’ve no idea. They all had the same compost and feed and spent the winter/spring lined up next to one another against a south-facing fence, so I wasn’t expecting quite such a difference between individuals – the shortest measures a mere 4 inches (10cm) and the tallest 24 inches (60cm). I can’t even blame pests or disease because none of the plants have been attacked by anything as far as I’m aware.

If I were being practical and space-conscious I suppose I would ditch the weakest ones, but, of course, I want to know if they eventually catch up and make garden-worthy plants, so I’m keeping them all – for now, at least.

My next update will hopefully include flowers – can’t wait!

Better late than never!

It’s been a while!

I normally start feeling the urge to blog some time in February/March, but 2016 has seen such a dismal start to the growing season here in my corner of the UK that I simply couldn’t muster any enthusiasm for it.

The year began promisingly enough. We had a mild January following on from a very mild December, and it looked at that point as if we were destined for a pleasant, early spring, but it wasn’t to be. Without ever being especially harsh – we had no snow to speak of – the cold temperatures arrived in February and proceeded to roll all the way through March, April and May leaving the garden more or less in a state of suspended animation. Plants that had started to stir in January, mainly clematis and roses in my garden, were stopped in their tracks almost until June. Daffodils that should have been flowering in March didn’t make an appearance until almost the end of April; brunnera and pulmonarias, usually in full bloom here in April, didn’t really hit their stride until May. As for my Flagpole Cherry tree (Prunus amanogawa), the blossom on that was the latest I’ve ever seen it in the 16 years since I planted it, more or less coinciding with the unfurling of its leaves in mid-May rather than April.

So spring barely happened, and there has been little respite since then. I don’t know what the records say, but to me this has felt like the coldest, dampest June ever. Plants have grown, but oh, so slowly, because there’s been so little warmth and sun to fuel them.

And then there have been the pests. Winter and spring might have been cold for plants (and humans!) but not cold enough to see off the slugs and snails, whose numbers have been truly epic this year. I lost several emerging perennials before I’d even seen they were on their way, and it’s been a battle to keep seedlings and young plants from being decimated.

All things considered, I’m glad I decided not to grow any veg this year other than a few tomatoes – watching them struggle to get anywhere would have been too disheartening.

Still, enough moaning!

The calendar says that it is summer, and I do have some pretty things to look at, so I dusted off my camera and took a few photos yesterday.

Firstly, there are the remnants of my foxgloves:


I believe they are Candy Mountain Mixed, though as it’s a year since I sowed them and I disposed of the packet, I’m not 100% sure! (note to self: labels!) Whatever they are, they’ve been gorgeous, rising to a stately 5 feet or so and persisting for many weeks. They are also a magnet for bumble bees, which is nice to see.

Then there are the alstroemerias – or what’s left of them after repeated slug/snail attacks:


They’ve probably come in for the worst mauling of any of my plants this year – from afar they look good, but up close the foliage looks distinctly tatty, and I’ve more or less lost a couple of clumps. At least some have survived, though.

Next is a grouping consisting of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blue Wave’ (which is pink because of my mildly alkaline soil, but still pretty!), Lysimachia punctata (Yellow Loosestrife), Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ (heavily munched by slugs, sadly),  and the golden-leaved Heuchera ‘Marmalade’:


The heuchera and brunnera were new last year and are slowly establishing themselves, not helped, it has to be said by the cold spring. I was hoping to propagate them this year, but they’ve taken forever to get going, so I think I’ll leave them for now.

Another new acquisition from last year is the pretty blue hardy geranium ‘Rozanne’ which is seen threading its way through some yet-to-flower hemerocallis and crocosmia:


It’s supposed to have a long flowering season, and as I’d like it to be a foil for other flowers (when they finally arrive!), I hope this is so. I certainly like it in association with the golden spiraea to the right, so that’s a good start!

My hanging baskets are gradually filling up:

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They’re just my usual mix of fuchsias, petunias, verbenas, impatiens, helichrysum and begonias planted in 12″ Easy Fill baskets. They can require rather a lot of watering on hot days, but thus far we’ve not had any of those, so I suppose I should be thankful for that, if nothing else!

Last but not least is a new plant to this establishment, a dahlia called ‘Ambition’:

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I am in love with this colour, especially of an evening when the setting sun slants across the garden and catches it alight:


My grandfather grew wonderful dahlias when I was a child, but I’ve never grown one myself, so this is something of a challenge for me. I bought it as a tuber in March and started it off indoors in a tray of compost (no heat, other than ambient), eventually potting it on and hardening it off outdoors in May. I couldn’t think where to plant it out in the ground, so in the end I put it in a large pot and it seems quite happy, producing a number of flower buds on its 3 stout stems. I’m under the impression that they are greedy feeders, so I added a handful of Vitax Q4 to the potting mix of bought multipurpose compost and well-rotted garden compost, and will give it a weekly liquid feed of Phostrogen throughout the growing season. Come autumn, I will probably have to think about giving it some protection over winter, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

In the meantime, let’s hope there’s a glorious summer waiting in the wings to surprise us all…



Propagating lilies: 5th update (one year on)

It’s actually 14 months since I began this particular propagation project in September 2014, but it’s almost a year to the day since I took the following photograph, which showed that new plants were definitely on their way!

On 10th November 2014, I had this:


and now, on 15th November 2015, I have this:


Okay, it is nowhere near flowering size yet and probably won’t be for at least another year and a half, but I was aware before I began that propagating bulbs is a long process requiring considerable patience, so I am not at all disappointed.

In fact, I almost think I enjoy this sort of thing because of the wait, not in spite of it. In an age when so many desires can be instantly gratified I like that some things cannot be hurried – just imagining how excited I’ll feel when I spot that first flower bud after years of waiting puts a smile on my face.

And with any luck, there will be more than one plant. I have at least nine still going strong, so I have a good chance of getting several to maturity – some to keep and some to give away, hopefully!

As ever, I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do at this stage of their development, but I reckon they’re big enough to survive the British winter outdoors, so that’s where they’ll stay. They are in various sizes of pot, some singly, others in groups, so it will be interesting to see which do best from this point. At the moment, having dug a few up to inspect them and replant them a bit deeper, there looks to be very little difference in size or health, so we shall see.


The Late Show

I seem to have been waiting forever for my tree lilies to flower – they usually bloom throughout July and are pretty much finished by August, but with the cold, late summer we’re having this year, the little divas are at least 3 weeks late!

Still, they are definitely worth waiting for. Not only are they exquisite to look at, but the scent is quite gorgeous, and in my small, enclosed garden it builds and wafts to all corners on balmy days.

Cezanne was the first to open its petals about a week and a half ago, and here it is:


And for a sense of scale, here is a single bloom, plus (rusty!) ruler:



Honestly, I can’t praise these things enough. I have four plants in an 18″ pot (2 Cezanne, 2 Picasso) and just those four have produced over thirty blooms between them – it’s like having the best-ever bouquet sitting down at the end of my garden for a month every year.

And they’re ridiculously easy to care for. I re-pot them into fresh multipurpose compost at the end of each growing season (or early spring the next year if I don’t get round to it!), water as needed, feed once a week through summer and into autumn (you need to build up the bulb for the next year) and that’s more or less it. They do need a bit of pest control: I pellet for slugs and snails in spring/early summer and keep a lookout for lily beetle through the growing season, but they are relatively trouble-free otherwise.

Their star turn might be brief, but I know I wouldn’t be without them – even if all I had was a windowbox, I’d find a way to grow them!

Citrus propagation – 2 year progress report

Thought it might be interesting to take a look at how my citrus plants, propagated in May 2013 from a Calamondin orange tree, are coming along.

There’s no denying that they are taking their time! To be honest, I’ve been feeling a little frustrated by the slowness of growth and was glad to be able to look back at my photos from this time last year to reassure myself that they have indeed been growing!

This is how they were in May 2014, the seedling then the cuttings:



I originally had 4 rooted cuttings and one plant grown from a pip, but I gave away one of the cuttings, so here are the remaining 3 plus the seed-grown specimen as they are now:



and from a lower angle to show the height:




and some individual shots, firstly the seedling:


then the cuttings:




The tallest of the plants is actually the seedling at 18 inches, with the tallest of the three cuttings coming in at 15 inches.

Habit-wise, they’re all a bit leggy in my opinion, but that probably has to do with the less than optimal indoor growing conditions that I have over winter – if I had a cool conservatory to keep them very light and bright but frost-free I imagine that would be a fair bit better than sitting them next to a north-facing patio door in a centrally-heated lounge!

On the whole, though, I’m quite pleased. They all seem to be somewhat prone to yellowing of the newer foliage in spite of the various tonics and citrus feeds that I apply, but apart from that, they appear to be healthy and doing fine.

I am holding back from potting them on for as long as I dare because I know from experience that citrus seem to do better for being a little pot-bound and certainly don’t like being moved into too big a pot too quickly – give them too much new compost around the rootball and the roots don’t seem to want to move out into it for some reason.

So, there we are. They are outside for the summer in a fairly sunny spot and I feed them with citrus food once a week and water fairly frequently – I don’t keep them soggy but I don’t allow them to dry out as much as I do in winter.

I think it might still be a while before I see any flowers/fruit on these, but I’m sure it will be worth the wait!

Propagating lilies: 4th update

Time for another look at my tree lily propagation project.

It’s nearly two months since I potted most of them up, and they seem to be coming along nicely  (apart from the one that was eaten by a slug overnight!): lilies-mid-july

What I find curious is that some of them have thrown up a single stalk as if they were about to flower like the parent plant, whilst the others have no main stem and are forming a rosette of leaves at ground level instead. Why this difference exists I have no idea, but when I came to pot them on, it seemed to be that it was the smaller bulbs producing the single stem and the larger bulbs producing the rosette: lilies-side-by-side

Looking at the two side by side, I can’t help thinking the bulb with the rosette looks the stronger and healthier of the two and is better placed to grow on more effectively, but who knows? I’ve potted them on into larger pots of multi-purpose compost mixed with a little perlite for extra drainage and will label them so that I can keep an eye on them as they develop and note any differences in growth and habit next year. I’m fascinated to find out, I have to say!

As for the plant that was eaten by the slug, I was going to chuck it straight in the compost bin (I’m not exactly short of lilies!) but, of course, I had to see what was under the compost, and it turns out to be a perfectly healthy-looking little bulb with a decent root system: eaten-bulb

…so, naturally, I’m keeping it!  I’ve put it back in its pot in some new compost and will see how it fares.

So, here they all are, freshly potted on, including a pot (the largest one) that I left as a group having decided not to separate them from the parent scale to see if it made any difference to the speed of development: lilies-potted-on-22nd-july

One thing that did concern me as I was potting them on was how deep to bury them. When you plant dormant bulbs you are supposed to cover them with around twice their height in soil, but these of course are not dormant, so I presume that they should be covered more or less to the depth they were previously? That’s what I ended up doing, so I hope it’s right! I’ll keep them out of hot sun (assuming we get any!) for the next week or so whilst they re-establish, then grow them on in a nice light position until the end of the season when I shall have to decide how to over-winter them: coldframe? sheltered position in the open air? Not sure yet…and I’ll probably change my mind a dozen times knowing me! I expect I’ll hedge my bets and do both…:)

Some new arrivals

I shouldn’t be allowed near a nursery at this time of year because even though I know that my garden is full to overflowing, I can never walk out empty-handed!

Top of my “couldn’t resist” list was Heuchera “Marmalade”:


I’ve owned Heuchera “Plum Pudding” for quite a number of years and love it for its robustness and easygoing nature – it seems to do well no matter where I grow it – so I’ve been meaning to add another variety to my plant collection for a while now, but hadn’t been able to decide on one until I spotted Heuchera “Marmalade” at a local nursery. I was immediately drawn to its pleasing blend of hues, reddish-orange through to pale lime green, and its compact habit, so it found its way into my basket, shortly followed by Heuchera “Fire Chief”:


This one is a really stunning red and will provide excellent foliage contrast in my sunny borders.

I was going to be (almost) sensible and leave it at that when I saw this little beauty:



Brunnera macrophylla “Jack Frost”, a variegated Siberian bugloss to add to the one I already have, Brunnera macrophylla “Variegata”. The blue forget-me-not flowers will have been and gone for this year, but those gorgeous leaves are showy enough for me!

I had to make a little room in my borders to fit in my new acquisitions, and I shall have to be careful that they don’t get swamped by any of their new neighbours, but I’m sure they’ll be worth the space.

Now I just need to stay away from anywhere that sells plants for the forseeable future…or get a bigger garden!

Nature watch: damsels laying


For about a week now I have been spotting a pair/pairs of Large Red damselflies laying eggs on the stems of emergent plants in my two water-filled containers, so I know that come May/June next year, barring accident, there will be a new generation of damsels to delight me.

I know that this species is just about the most common in the UK, but I never fail to feel honoured when these dainty, jewel-coloured insects choose my garden to reproduce in. It took a few seasons for them to find me, but now they come every year, and early summer wouldn’t be the same without them.

Lots more roots!

I think it’s time to pot up this rooted side shoot!


I measured the roots when I removed it from the jar, and the longest were about 8cm – not bad for about a week’s growth!

Next step was to carefully pot it up in some multipurpose compost and water it in very well:


I then put it in my shady coldframe so that it will be protected from hot sun (if we get any!) until the roots have had a chance to establish, after which it can go back out into a sunny spot to grow on.

It already has a little flower bud on it, so I may see fruit quicker than I think!