"Bold November belles"

Some eye-catching flowers are in bloom now.
Sunday, 21 November 2021     

Lilium in the garden of Pamela Fowell in Sydney

Late spring sees lots of dainty little treasures flowering in Sydney gardens, especially on some of the cottage garden perennials that can flourish in our climate - such as Aquilegia, Thalictrum, Dianthus, Campanula poscharskyana, Linaria purpurea and Lychnis coronaria. However, I also enjoy some of the bolder blooms that are around now, that really make a statement in the garden, especially when grown amidst some of the more delicate flowers.

One plant that really stands out at the moment is the Lilium. I always thought they were too tricky to grow in Sydney, but I've noticed in a garden nearby to me a clump of tall, white-flowered Lilium that flower magnificently every year at this time and was inspired to put in some myself this year to give some pizzazz to an area of the garden devoted to white flowers and green-and-white variegated foliage along with dark purple blooms and foliage. There are many species of Lilium, including the white Lilum longiflorum said to be one of the best species for warmer climates, as well as various hybrids: the Asiatic and the Oriental being the two main categories. The latter are thought to be the most spectacular and have larger flowers and fragrance, which the Asiatics generally lack, though they in turn have the brighter and more varied colours. Hybrids between the two exist, capturing the best of both types! Hybrids with longiflorum in their makeup apparently return year after year and make good clumps. I haven't had enough experience of Lilium to know yet if this is true of the other hybrid forms. But even if they only last for one year, they can be real eye-catchers in the garden, along with their perfume, and I know gardeners who regard them purely as annuals.

Lilium like good drainage and like a cool root run, so appreciate some shade around their base; mulching will also help to keep the roots cool and moist. The plants also enjoy air circulation around them. Watering is important once the foliage has emerged. Use a general-purpose fertiliser at the time of planting, and a high-nitrogen one as the shoots appear. They may need staking to avoid wind damage.

Another flamboyant plant at its peak now is the daylily. Though lasting but a day, each bold trumpet-shaped flower makes an impact in the garden, and the sheer range of hues of daylilies makes them invaluable for colour-scheming gardeners. There is almost every colour of the rainbow to be had (except absolute pure white and true blue). Many have a striking 'eye-zone' of a contrasting hue. Flowers shapes vary all the way from spidery or triangular to eye-popping full circles and doubles, with miniatures adding to their diversity. The best sorts for Sydney gardens seem to be the evergreen ones; the dormant types seem to be better in cooler climates. They grow best in a sunny, well-drained position. I cut the foliage back in winter (or any other time when it looks ratty) and it rapidly regrows. It's best to remove the spent flowers each day so these don't mar the look of the plant.

Alstroemeria are also in flower now and they add a strong splash of brilliant colour and panache to the scene with their massed blooms. Some gardeners find these plants somewhat scary, and with good reason as they some really can clump up and take over. Alstroemeria psittacina , with red and green flowers, is quite a menace and very hard to get rid of. The original species of these tuberous plants (sometimes called Peruvian lilies) are native to South America, but they have been hybridised over the years, first with the Ligtu Hybrids and later with the Dutch Hybrids (ht 60-90 cm). They have beautiful trumpet-like flowers that are usually spotted or streaked, and they come in a range of colours including white, pinks, purple, red, orange and yellow. They can grow into very large clumps, and whilst often hard to establish in the first place, they can be very hard to get rid of if you ever want to remove them, as the roots bury themselves so deeply after a few years. Some of the taller hybrids tend to be rather sprawling, so they need to be staked. There are some compact hybrids available these days (often sold as 'Princess Lilies', ht 40 cm) that seem easier all round to manage and don't seem to get out of hand like the taller ones. Like the other plants already mentioned, Alstroemeria like fertile, well-drained soil and do best in full sun. Fertilise the plants regularly to support their prolific flowering display (some people recommend the use of tomato food for these plants), and water them often in the growing season. The compact forms are useful for pots.

Other striking blooms out now include Agapanthus, shasta daisies, mophead Hydrangea, Neomarica caerulea, Zantedeschia aethiopica and some early Dahlia. I'd love to hear of your experiences of growing any of these plants, especially the Lilium, with which I am quite a novice!

 Reader Comments

1/7  Bren - 2540 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 November 2021

I got Lychnis coronaria and Campanula poscharskyana from a fete, and they are great additions to the garden. They are quite hardy and spread to form a groundcover, but are not invasive. This is unlike Alstromeria psittacina, which was already in my garden, and for which I have developed a great hatred! I love Thalictrum; my mother used to grow it in NZ; I must give it a go here. Those two groundcovers are excellent plants. Hope you can find the Thalictrum - it is very pretty. Deirdre

2/7  Pamela - 2158 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 November 2021

Ive been growing Liliums now for the past 5 years.Many return each year, some disappear but I just keep adding to my collection and now have over 40 varieties.Easy to plant and I feed with Sudden Impact when I give my roses a feed then sprinkle with some Super Growth pellets when flowering.Some I stake,others use surrounding plants to lean on.They are such great fillers after the first flush of roses,fave is one called The Edge,fragrance better than any rose in my garden.Im addicted to Liliums. Thanks so much for those tips, Pamela; I feel I am going to add more to my garden next year! Deirdre

3/7  Gaynor - 5044 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 22 November 2021

I also recently bought the Lychnis and Campanula varieties mentioned. There are Alstromeria varieties which were also present in my garden, including the green and red ones, which I dislike. The pale pink one is quite attractive - but since they grow in the area I have reserved for the lizards, I mostly ignore them. I absolutely adore lilies and find them so easy. I just planted the bulbs, quite deeply, and then waited for them to come up. Year after year they reward little effort. It is good to know the liliums keep going from year to year. I am feeling quite inspired! Deirdre

4/7  Jean - 4035 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 22 November 2021

Shasta daisies - I have a good spread but have known them as Ox Eye. Is it the same? The ones I call ox-eye daises are I think Leucanthemum vulgare - similar in look to shasta daisies but smaller and lower growing. Deirdre

5/7  Pam - 2159 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 November 2021

I like the spikes of foxgloves flowering now, white, mauves and pinks. The older ones self-seed for a few years here too. The rain yesterday has freshened everything, but brought out the snails too. I do have some liliums, but make sure I remove the stamens before picking as the pollen can shed madly on the petals. Thanks for that tip re the stamens. I often do this when I have liliums in a vase as the pollen can be a problem indoors. Deirdre

6/7  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 November 2021

I am a fan of liliums, probably because I have success with them, each year. A variety of them, L. longiflorum, Asiatic, L.A. Asiatics, all perform well, year after year. Tiger lilies are not so successful. I have tried Oriental lilies, but find they are great for one year, only. I believe they are happier in a colder climate. Thanks for this information, Margaret. I think the ones I bought this year are Orientals as that was all that was left when I ordered (late!) but I plan to get in early next year and try some of the ones you suggest. Deirdre

7/7  Valerie - 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 November 2021

Now encouraged to put in more liliums and Shasta daisies always look fabulous. I am in the process of clearing an area of the dreaded Alstroemeria psittacina. I once saw them in a florist as cut flowers with a price tag. Here they have even taken over a patch of Agapanthus, struggling underneath the invasion. Luckily a turkey got in and started the job for me. He must have thought the Alstroemeria would make good nesting material (!). Great that the turkey did that for you! Deirdre

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