Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lily's last fling

"Well, it was fun while it lasted, Lily, see you again next summer." Not that I play around much, mind you, but I've been bidding a fond farewell this weekend to three lovely lilies, and my wife Pammy didn't even bat an eyelid, either. She understands my needs.

That flaxen-haired strumpet, Ginger Lily, partied hard all through summer and now all her energy is spent. Hair tousled, still magnificent if a bit frazzled, she's ready for her beauty sleep.

It wasn't so long ago that she looked like this. To tell the truth, each ginger lily bloom doesn't last all that long but this plant seems to organise itself so that one striking bloom follows the other. Like well-behaved chorus girls, no upstaging goes on amongst the ginger lilies.

These are the stems prior to flowering, and remarkably enough this is just one season's growth. A bit later in the year, in the depths of our fairly mild winter, in late July, I'll cut every last ginger lily stem down to ground level, and follow up with a good feed of manure soon after. It will rocket away in rapid growth once more when spring gets underway in September. If I cut them down now, the plants might actually get growing again and send up new shoots – and that would be a disaster come the chills of July.

Not far from ginger lily's place, her flame-haired cousin, Canna, is also signing off after another great summer. The plentiful spiders of autumn are making the most of the free frames for their delicate webs, and they're welcome to them.

Back a few months ago in the heat summer, Canna was a feast of hot orange that dared the blazing sun to burn even brighter.

Canna is an energetic lass, and even now she has the verve to send up one last blast of colour. Hope she makes it.

And I couldn't discuss Cousin Canna without mentioning her tiger-striped foliage. She's not a subtle thing, our canna. She's show-biz loud and tropically lush and that's why I like her. Like the ginger lily, canna's headed for a midwinter chop-then-feed routine, and she'll be back next year, bigger than ever. I had to halve the size of her clump last year as she was simply spreading too far in every direction. She took this in her stride and put on a pretty good show in this, her first year after the 'Big Division', and I'm sure that next year she'll be in top form again.

And the third of my lilies to be fading away is this little oddity, my pineapple lily. It's a South African bulb with the botanical name of Eucomis. I've had it growing for three years in my garden, and this year was the first time it flowered (in midsummer). As soon as I read that this one had green flowers, I had to get one, and I've been mostly disappointed with it ever since! In its first two years it grew a lot of leaves and grew and grew, and never flowered. This year it bloomed at last, and they looked just fine. Hopefully it will not now wait another three years before performing again...

Finally, a suitably messy scene of devastation and slow decay, made even more grim by my corpse garden gnome (on the right, poor chap murdered by gnomes unknown). I'm letting the pineapple lily's foliage die down, but the rotter is taking months to even get the foliage fading from green to yellow. Fortunately it's almost hidden from view so isn't much of an eyesore, but I'm not a great fan of the way all the bulb-type plants actually look ugly and scrappy in the garden for a longer period than they ever look pretty. I'm sure they're great in big woodland gardens, and of course the bulb life-cycle is a wonderful adaptation for survival in nature, but in very small gardens like mine, I'm not sure if I have room for them. Oh well, one more year and then I'll decide if odd Miss Pineapple Lily stays or not!

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