In the hot weather we are having, the Woodland Garden is a haven of cool shade. Amongst the lush foliage, look out for the beautiful flowers of summer lilies.
Lilies are the classic summer bulb, with different species flowering from early summer to the first days of autumn. Their flowers range from small colourful ‘Turk’s caps’, with reflexed petals, to gleaming trumpets with a heady fragrance, like the glorious Lilium regale, from China.
A bewildering variety of lily hybrids have been raised, some with upward-facing blooms that are grown for cut flowers or for pots. But the wild species are ideally suited to a woodland garden in moist, humus-rich soil and dappled shade. Many come from parts of the world with a monsoon climate and are used to wet summers. The bulbs are made up of a cluster of scales and should be planted 15 to 20 cm deep from autumn to early spring.
Lily bulbs ready for planting in late autumn
Lilies with flowers that have recurved petals are often called Turk’s caps and they include the Chinese species Lilium henryi and L. davidii. Both have nodding, orange flowers with darker spots towards the centre and anthers held out on long filaments. They are lime tolerant and ideal for a partially shaded border.
Lilium davidii in the Woodland Garden at Kew
From Europe comes one of the easiest lilies for the garden, Lilium martagon. The leaves are held in whorls on a stem that reaches over a metre tall and carries up to fifty small Turk’s cap flowers. Colours range from deep plum purple to pale lilac and white.
A dark form of Lilium martagon
If you would like to learn more about bulbs in any season, Growing Garden Bulbs, published by Kew, can be bought for only £5 from the Kew shop and online from Kewbooks.com.
- Richard -