a clod of soil

The Madonna Lily, Lilium candidum, the only lily I can really grow. And no wonder. In The Larger Bulbs, Brian Mathew says “I have seen it in Greece growing in clumps on the flat roof of a house in the Peloponnese, flowering magnificently in a clod of soil.” And in Flowers of Greece and the Aegean, by Huxley and Taylor, the habitat is described as “dry stony slopes, thickets, in Epirus, Peloponnese, and the Eastern Aegean islands.”

These have been in the garden for a long time, growing in hard clay mixed with pea gravel kicked in from the nearby path. (Border collies running up and down.) It took the lilies a while to do anything, but now they flower pretty reliably. I would say that their water needs, in excess of natural rainfall here, are negligible.

When you can get them (I don’t know of any mail-order bulb companies offering them this year), they usually ship in August, at which time you plant them with the tops right below the surface of the soil, a half-inch or so. No deeper, because the lily sends up a rosette of green leaves that overwinter, even here.

Now what I want (see how this works? one thing makes you want another) is its hybrid with another Greek lily, Lilium chalcedonicum. This is Lilium × testaceum, flowers of isabelline, the color supposedly named because Queen Isabella of Spain refused to change her underwear until the siege of Ostend was lifted; the siege lasted three years and the queen’s underwear were said to have turned this color.

This turns out to have been a myth, but maybe this is the reason for the exceedingly high price of the bulbs. Years ago, when you could still find them, they sold for upwards of sixteen dollars each. A lot of money to pay to get flowers colored like someone’s old underwear.

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2 Responses to a clod of soil

  1. Cheryl says:

    What about seeds?

    • paridevita says:

      Good question. I’ve never tried it. There are a few companies that sell seeds, mostly overseas so you need a permit from APHIS.
      My plants have never set any seed that I know of. Maybe they need a pollinator. I could do it myself, but that means remembering to do it, and actually doing it. Unless this is a sterile clone, which is also possible.
      Brent and Becky’s, and McClure and Zimmermann, usually sell bulbs, but not this year.

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