GARDENING LIFE; It's the silly lily season.
Autumn in Scotland is special, with the sun giving that long, low, warm light of October and November.
Sun? Yup, often we have an Indian Summer, with days warm enough to sit out and watch the seasons change. But for me the season starts a lot earlier, in the week or so after the end of August.
And I know not so much by what I see as what I smell.
This week there have been days without any wind. What hit me right away in the garden was that sickly sweet lily smell. I couldn't get away from it. It's delicious but to me it also says `here comes winter'. Don't get me wrong. I've an insane passion for oriental lilies. In fact, for the whole lily family.
So I've been waiting for a stunning Lilium regale, about six feet tall, to open up. It had these big pale green flower buds that had grown fatter and fatter.
Then suddenly one morning it produced great white trumpet flowers and orange stamens like fat orange-brown caterpillars. You could get drunk on the scent.
Then, looking around, there are other lilies. Clumps of Tricyrtis, the toad lilies, the whitish Lilium wallichianum, the rather creepy Lilium Nepalese with a dark oxblood heart to its flowers.
I know how easy it is to become obsessed with the lily family. A bit over two centuries ago, people went mad over tulips. It was called Tulipomania, and people spent huge sums of money on a single bulb. Remember that tulips are also members of the lily family and you'll get the idea.
So when the big oriental lilies first appeared, people went crazy all over again.
From early spring through into autumn, some member or other of the lily family is grabbing your attention in the garden - or in the house, as some of them make fabulous house plants. In fact, if pushed to it and told I could only have one family of plants in the garden, I would choose the lilies.
Actually, that's a cop-out, because once all flowers were called lilies. "Remember the lilies of the field," it says in the Bible. Well, the Good Book doesn't just mean lilies, but any kind of flower. But even if you just stick to the botanist's Latin Lilacea family, the choice is incredible.
So in my ideal lily family garden, I'd start off almost as soon as the snow had lifted with the water-lily tulip, Tulipa kauffmanniana from Central Asia. They're usually a mixture of whites, creams or pinks.
But, for a striking red, try Tulipa "Shakespeare" which will be good through into late March or early April.
If you've got the right conditions, the Snake's Head Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris) is something to die for. How anyone could call these beautiful plants The Leper's Lily is beyond me.
Ideally, they like meadow conditions. That means plenty of moisture but not soggy and waterlogged ground. You could grow them in a rock garden if the drainage is not too sharp.
Then there are erythoniums, one of American woodlands' many gifts to our gardens. They look a bit like fritillaries, but one called Erythronium "Pagoda", with a rich yellow flower and deep green leaves is unusual and a good colour for mid-to-late spring.
That takes us through into mid-summer. Then, what else except Lilium candidum, the Madonna Lily? Okay, so we have them forced for Easter, but what I am talking about is their stunning impact on the garden. They're one of Europe's oldest flowers. There are pictures of the Madonna lily painted on the walls of ancient Cretan temples. Then it became the famous fleur de lys of the Kings of France. It's quite easy to grow, but doesn't like being moved.
Plant it and leave it. And keep it away from other lilies, because it can catch virus disease from its more colourful cousins.
For the true lily maniac, there is a plant you have to wait for seven years to come into flower. Once. If you are lucky, that is. But it is between six and eight feet tall and once seen is never forgotten.
It's called the Giant Himalayan Lily, Cardiocrinum giganteum, and the best thing is to do what we do. Buy the huge bulb from Glendoick Gardens*. You won't regret it for a moment. Only, don't arrange to go on holiday in July or August if your Cardiocrinum is coming into flower.
Which brings us back to September and the lilies. For me, they signal the beginning of the end of the gardening year. That heady and unmistakable autumn lily smell says "it's change-over time" and I begin to think of all the things that need to be done in the back-end of the year.
It's a bit ridiculous, because the intense late summer colours, like the red Salvia fulgens, bright as a neon sign, and the scarlet Lobelia cardinalis, are still giving us all they've got. Ditto the electric blue Agapanthus on its long, green stalk.
But look at all of them closely and you'll see that the colours are fading.
So, in our little Rose Garden, around the cheeky statue of the Three Graces, full of powerful colours only two weeks ago, everything is going over. The Peruvian lilies, alstomeria, are losing their stripey brilliance while the Rose Campions, lychnis coronaria, are just looking dusty.
Only the red hips on the gigantic Rosa Moyesii look unchanged - only bigger, like blobs of fresh blood.
Priorities are changing fast. Now it's a rush to completing the painstaking task of gathering all our Meconopsis seed, which then has to spend the early winter months in the cold part of the fridge.
In fact, it's an increasingly hectic time, with all cuttings to be taken and the little lily bulbils to be harvested, cleaned and stored in polythene bags until they begin to sprout little bulbs and roots after about three months.
Other lilies, such as Lilium Regale, set seed and will produce good plants which will be ready in about four years.
This is a sheltered garden, but this year we were blighted by a sudden icy blast just before Easter. That one night completely destroyed the young growth.
There's a rhodendron loderi which was coming into flower in a major way for the first time. The morning after only one bud remained. But that single survivor produced a huge truss of white flowers blushed with pink.
Other plants we did manage to save. When the cold snap happened, we rushed out and covered some precious arisaema collected from the wild with terracotta flower pots, old polystyrene fish boxes - anything that came to hand.
To avoid a repeat next year, I've just ordered a roll of Agrifleece - the thin, white spun-plastic material that insulates better than the sacking we used to use. And lots of aluminium tent pegs to pin it down.
What usually happens is that the wind gets underneath the fleece and lifts it like a sail.
But with the Agrifleece, a stack of old cardboard boxes, and super-strong packing tape, I reckon we can build emergency shelters for more or less anything.
In the next few weeks, we shall have to start literally wrapping up the garden.
I still believe in a wigwam of evergreen branches for a lot of things that continue to like a flow of air. And they look a lot nicer than a whole load of plastic bundles.
It's nice to have the garden looking good through the winter, but that's simply not possible when individual plants are your priority.
So I'm planning a series of working parties soon in which we'll begin to winterise everything. Although there's a while to go yet, I'm beginning to think Big Freeze.
*Glendoick Gardens, Glendoick, Carseview, Perthshire PH2 7NS. Tel : 01738 860205
QWHAT can I do about rabbits? They're eating everything in my garden that the slugs haven't.
A JOIN the club. There are a lot of us with this problem this year. There is no easy way or complete answer. If you surround the beds with wire netting, then it has to be buried up to 18 inches below ground level. Netting over beds can just trap them inside as they munch away. Most dogs are hopeless. Some cats will kill young rabbits. You can use Ultrasound, Lion Dung, cloches among other deterrents. But nothing is 100 per cent.
The alternative is to buy a wonderful little book produced by a fellow- sufferer. It's called Gardening With The Enemy: A Guide To Rabbit Proof Gardening, by Janet Thomson. Tell your bookseller the ISBN is 0 9530013 OX because she published it herself. At pounds 3.99, it's worth every penny. She lists a good range of rabbit -proof plants, and some sensible ideas about how to keep the beast at bay. If all else fails, you'll get a good laugh. I did.
Q I'M a Scot, living just south of the border and have room for one tree in my garden. I'd like something that reminds me of home. Any suggestions?
AI ONCE had exactly the same problem. One idea was the Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) but I preferred a deciduous tree and preferably something with a bit of colour. So I settled on the Mountain Ash (Sorbus Acuparia). It has beautiful foliage, with light green leaves with a delicate saw- tooth edge, and in autumn a mass of red berries from which you can make rowanberry jelly. In spring, it has attractive white flowers, which turn red and yellow in autumn.
It always reminded me of home and recently I've planted several more at Craigieburn.
Another tree to consider, which is in the same family as the Parottia, is the Liquidamber or Sweet Gum. Liquidamber orientalis is slow growing. Liquidamber styraciflua is a bit bigger and easier to find.
There are some good varieties such as `Golden Treasure' and `Moonbeam' around. If you happen to be in Ayrshire, go and see the Liquidamber growing in Auchencruive Gardens.
The trick with autumn colour is forcing people to lift their eyes up from the ground up into the trees. Make them look at the skyline and those wonderful autumnal Scottish skies.
Plant a single specimen tree, give it a few years and then let a clematis scramble up over it. You won't regret it.
If you've got a gardening problem, write to Bill at the Daily Record, 40 Anderston Quay, Glasgow G3 8DA
DOWN TO EARTH: Bill's notebook
l FROSTS are here, so make sure you get the tender plants under cover or provide protection. Any tender stuff from the garden should be lifted and potted up if you want to over winter them.
l GET on with planting the bulbs, but leave the tulips and hyacinths till last. Don't forget to feed the newly planted bulbs with a bone meal mixture worked into the top couple of inches.
l CUTTINGS, cuttings and more cuttings. Both Soft wood and hardwood should start now. We're working on penstemons, salvias, lobelias, tradescantia and all the annuals for next year.
l COLLECTING seed from the primulas, meconopsis, digitalis alba, iris sibirica. Keep the seed pods in brown paper bags to be cleaned and sorted later on in the winter.
l TIDY And prune roses and train ramblers back into shape. Mine have gone crazy this year.
PLANT OF THE WEEK
Rembrandt Tulip is a floral masterpiece
THERE are about 100 different tulip species and who knows how many cultivars. I'd be happy to have all of them somewhere in the garden.
Some of the most extraordinary are the Rembrandt Tulips, where strangely exotic stripes and colour variations have been produced by viral infections.
Another tulip which creates a similar effect is Keizerkroo, with deep red flowers edged in yellow.
Equally distinctive are the Parrot Tulips, which first appeared in 1620. They have fringed flowers in a deep yellow with a red flash up each of the petals.
Spring flowering tulips can be planted at the end of September, although I usually leave them here until October, or even early November. If you plant them too early, they can get caught by frost.
Good Books are essential tools of any serious gardener, as much as a spade and ford. But how to know what's worth having? Each week I'll choose a book that I have found essential, useful or fun to read.
This week the choice is one of the smashing Month by Month Gardening series. John Kelly's The Garden in Flower Month by Month is expert, imaginative, thorough and easy to understand. Full of useful ideas for design and maintenance. Published in paperback by David and Charles, at a bargain, pounds 9.99.
EVERY weekend Scotland's garden centres are packed. There are so many accessories on the market that it's hard to tell which are necessities and which are true bargains. Here BILL CHUDZIAK picks the best buys around. Not one of them costs the earth...
l Simone's Lizard
SIMONE LYON is a garden sculpture artist and her work is stunningly beautiful. She specialises in animals. Forget the feeble figures you can usually find in garden centres. These ones are full of energy and life. First of all I got a frog, then a lizard, then two ducks. Now they sit out in the garden all year round. Simone's figures are completely weatherproof, sculpted in a robust stoneware. The cheapest starts at pounds 30. Get full details from her studio at Macbiehill Farm, West Linton, Peebleshire EH46 76AZ. Tel 01968-660817
l Ultimate Watering Can
YOU can buy watering cans for a pound or so, in polyvinylsomething. Then there is a nice traditional metal can from Poland that I sometimes use.
So why do I need a new Haws watering can that costs more serious money? Simple. They do the job better, especially for watering seeds that need only the gentlest of fine sprays.
A Haws brass rose is simply better engineered than anything else on the market, and the rest of the can is up to the same standard.
My present one is 12 years old and I'm planning to get one of their small one-litre cans in dark green.
pounds 18.95. Available from good garden centres.
l Green Grow The Wellies
DON'T tell anyone, but you can get those posh Green Wellies cheap, from The Gates Rubber Company factory outlet in Dumfries. They call them `seconds' but there's nothing wrong with mine at all. The ones I chose have a steel bar welded under the instep that now makes digging a doddle. Call The Gates Rubber Company, Edinburgh Road, Dumfries. Tel: 01387-253111 and ask for the Seconds Shop. They also have some good value outdoor clothes.
l Hazard to Health?
HEARD of RSI - Repetitive Strain Injury? Well, that's what I am getting from repeatedly lifting up my copy of the massive RHS hardback A-Z encyclopaedia of Garden Plants. Published by the ace garden publishers Dorling Kindersley, you get over 1000 pages on more than 15,000 plants and more than 6000 super colour photos.
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|Author:||Chudziak, Bill; Wheatcroft, Janet|
|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Sep 19, 1998|
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