Buying lily bulbs

by Adam Pasco

There's only one way to resist the temptation of buying more bulbs and that's not to visit any garden centres at all for the next few months...

Lilium 'Strawberry and Cream'There's only one way to resist the temptation of buying more bulbs and that's not to visit any garden centres at all for the next few months! I remember the 'problem' I had last year. First of all it was lilies, their pictorial packs screaming out for my attention, and soon ending up with a new owner. Then, having satisfied my desire for lilies, I'd visit another garden centre where other temptations — dahlias, begonias, gladioli — would prove irresistible.

Pictorial packs are designed to be irresistible. Those open boxes of loose bulbs just aren't the same. They may be a bit cheaper, but pictorial packs provide something to focus on while waiting for the bulbs to bloom.

Last spring I bought a wonderful new variety of lily called 'Strawberry & Cream'. A pack of two plump, healthy lily bulbs — it's important to check if they're firm and healthy — cost £1.99. I reasoned that three packs wouldn't break the bank, and would be sufficient for me to create the lily feature I was dreaming of.

Each lily bulb was planted straight away in its own 20cm pot. These were grown on in my unheated greenhouse for a few months as I watched each produce a tall stem tipped with flower buds, before I planted them out in a group. The resulting lily 'forest', pictured above, looked magnificent. Each bulb produced just one stem, but each was topped by an eruption of six or so bright trumpets.

The lilies reigned supreme for several weeks in high summer. After they finished flowering I left them in place to grow and die down naturally. I'm hoping they'll return for an encore in 2009.

I'll need to visit the garden centre this weekend to buy some compost. Should I walk past the display of pictorial bulb packs?

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Gardeners' World Web User 25/01/2009 at 18:04

This variety looks gorgeous. I'll have to find some to grow this year. My biggest problem growing them is that lily beetle always attack them. Any ideas for keeping lily beetle away?

Gardeners' World Web User 26/01/2009 at 16:23

Hi Thompsom and morgan are selling what they call Tree lily. I have ordered some but was wondering if any of the readers or viewers have any and how well they are performing...They say they get 8-10 ft high.....

Gardeners' World Web User 26/01/2009 at 20:51

I'll be growing T&M's tall-growing "tree lilies" this summer to report back in Gardeners' World Magazine next year. If anyone is trying them this summer then do let us know how you get on at Happy Gardener, as far as lily beetle are concerned, you can spray with insecticide to prevent attack. Alternatively be vigilant! Lily beetle start attacking fritillarias in spring, and then move on to lilies. I check plants daily if possible, looking for signs of red beetles at the tip or evidence of leaves being nibbled. Pick off and destroy any pests you find.

Gardeners' World Web User 31/01/2009 at 18:05

please can anyone tell me of the best way of keeping plants off a few plants that are in beds that I do not want to surround with fences do the chemicals work when sprayed on the plants thanks in advance

Gardeners' World Web User 31/01/2009 at 18:06

sorry the above post was supposed to read rabbits

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