Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wahoo! Martagon Lilies are Blooming in the Garden

Lilium martagon x 'Mrs. R.O. Backhouse'
Martagon lilies are the first to bloom here on the farm, liking light shade in hot climates or full sun in cooler areas, they have a multitude of nodding "turk's cap" one-inch blooms that dance in the wind. Long-lived in nature, some beds in Europe are over 100 years old.  Growing best when undisturbed, they are lovely in dappled afternoon shade where the stems can elongate a bit while stretching for the light.  Butterflies and Hummingbirds love to investigate these flowers, so they are a good addition to the garden close to a window or near an outdoor patio setting.
Lilium martagon (most commonly found)

The old home of Mr. Jan de Graaff, early breeder of lilies in the Western USA and owner of Oregon Bulb Farms in the 1960's,  had a large colony of L. martagon 'Paisley Hybrids' and the pink species growing "wild" over the hill where the scraps from the fall harvest were discarded after sorting.  Damaged bulbs, broken scales, tiny bulblets, stems, leaves, roots and field "dirt" were allowed to fall freely off the conveyer belts for years directly into a deep gully where they quickly recovered to thrive in the light woodland shade.

Not surprisingly, the bulblets of Asiatic, Trumpet and Oriental hybrids never seemed to really make a foothold, but this was also in the very early days of hybridization, well before inter-specific hybrids like Oriental-Trumpets (OT or Orienpets) first made their appearance.  Based on our own compost piles of leavings at the edge of the field, it's possible that these relatively recent clones might have been just as vigorous under the same conditions if given enough natural rainfall.

Lilium martagon mature their stems early, so a bit of drought mid summer does little harm.  For years a small group of bulbs that were missed during harvest bloomed within the grass at the edge of our field.  That section of row had been turned into a tractor lane and was not watered more than by accident when the wind blew the wrong way.  By the time they we finally rescued the lilies, they had multiplied nicely and were given a "better" spot in the garden, which turned out to be too wet and the bulbs began to decline.  Case in point - go easy on the moisture-retentive materials like compost and manure and do not allow the soil to remain soggy for an extended period of time.

Lilium martagon album (variant)
These lilies appreciate humus if your soil is sandy, but do not use straight peat moss or commercial potting soil with peat as an ingredient because they like a slightly alkaline soil.  Well composted leaves from your garden -  or a nearby deciduous forest - mixed into the planting area is perfect or use as a "top dressing" in early summer.

Note the white "fuzzies" on the petal tips in the photo on the left and the leaf in the background?  This is pubescence and is not harmful, in fact, it may completely cover the entire bud of some varieties while they are still tightly closed.  This photo was taken in a greenhouse - a crowded one - and being so shady, the color came out a bit too "blue".

In the bottom photo you can see just how tiny the flowers really are.  This photograph was taken at 5PM just as clouds began to roll in and a few drops of rain were beginning to fall.  The color is true.

Tiny flowers on Martagon lilies

We only offer Martagon lilies in fall because they seem to settle in more quickly with cool temperature planting.  This spring we had reports of a few bulbs that were fall planted in the Eastern States, that started budding almost as soon as they emerged from the soil, one of the common problems with spring planted Martagons.  The crazy late winter/early spring weather - too warm too early - triggered bud set before the stems had a chance to elongate.  Next summer they will be normal.  The lilies on the right never seem to grow taller than 2 feet, but most Martagons reach 3 to 4 feet tall in full sun.

Choose a spot that will not be over run by other plants or shaded too much by trees when planting these special lilies.  They can be happy for a decade or longer in the same spot with regular weeding, fertilizer, and a bit less water than other lilies in late summer. 

No comments:

Post a Comment