Growing Lilies In The English Garden

 In Gardening

I just love growing lilies. The blousiness, the exotic odour, the haughty demeanor, all the things that I am not. Perhaps this contrast between a gardener and his favourite flowers has a deep psychological foundation. The lily flower also measures the seasons and they shout out high summer. I have no doubt that my health is better because nature offers these floristic benefits. I buy a few bulbs, plant them and joyfully watch the flowers unfold. But, nature has a little sting in the tail.

The invader

The lily leaf beetle appeared in Britain perhaps a 100 years ago but remained in Surrey. From the 1980’s it suddenly expanded and is now all over the country. It has attractive scarlet wing covers but some otherwise nasty habits. Once it lays its eggs, the young hatch and eat the leaves and flowers. The young cover themselves in their sticky black poo to avoid being eaten. If the beetles proliferate then the lily is doomed. Because I won’t use chemical sprays, I regularly inspect the plants and kill the little blighters, which is not easy. If they sense you approaching, they drop to the ground and always land upside down. They hide their scarlet giveaway by showing their black undercarriage and are then difficult to see. It’s a shame to destroy such a pretty insect but nature and gardeners have a cruel streak.

Gardening in prehistory

Zuri does not know the lily in my picture, an Asiatic species. There were no lilies in her Neolithic world, and no lily beetles. Neither can any of the plant, including the bulb, be eaten. She would despair at me for growing a flower let alone a foreign species that cannot be eaten. I can do it because I am a spoiled, pensioner gardener. Unlike Zuri, I don’t have to worry about putting food on the table. But, I do have to worry about bringing in exotic plants that in their turn attract a non-native insect. I am messing up the world and perhaps it is time to stop growing lilies.

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