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 -
Several people contribute to the Alpine and Rock Garden Team blog. Richard Wilford is the Collections Manager in the Hardy Display Section at Kew. His responsibilities include all the areas where alpines are grown at Kew Gardens. The three team leaders, Joanne Everson, Graham Walters and Katie Price, each have their own particular parts of the Gardens to look after. Between them, these four experts have over 55 years experience of growing alpines.
Alpines at Kew Gardens are not only grown to create colourful and informative displays, they also play an important role in the research Kew carries out around plant naming, classification, biodiversity and conservation.
Mountains are found on every continent and each range has its own unique alpine flora, but these plants are under threat from climate change. As temperatures rise, alpines are forced higher and will eventually have nowhere to go. The alpine collections at Kew are studied to help us all understand the mountain flora better and make informed decisions about protecting its future.
"Probably the most beautiful glasshouse in the world is the Davies Alpine House at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew", John Hoyland, Gardens Illustrated, April 2011
Richard Wilford has written a book on alpines, 'Alpines from Mountain to Garden', published by Kew Publishing. You can buy it in the Kew shops or from Kewbooks.com.
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