‘Lilies in October!?’ I hear you exclaim. Maybe in the southern hemisphere, but not in England, surely? Well yes actually, these wonderful, fragrant flowers are in full bloom in our coastal garden now. The reason? The bulbs were purchased at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in early July and have taken until now to grow and flower. And very welcome they are too with their fabulous scent, mingling with Cestrum nocturnum (also, rather suggestively, known as ‘Lady of the night’), filling these balmy autumn evenings with a heady concoction of sweetness and spice.
Lilium ‘Kushi Maya’ is a ground-breaking hybrid created by Dutch breeders using cutting-edge embryo recovery techniques. A flower of shy but beautiful Lilium nepalense was pollinated with pollen from an Oriental hybrid and the resulting embryos nurtured in a test tube to prevent them being aborted. All a little unromantic, but what remarkable offspring. L. ‘Kushi Maya’ retains its species parent’s fabulous apple and blackberry colouring, but gains strength and stamina from its hybrid genes. Given an acidic soil (or compost) and a year or so to get going, the bulbs produce stems up to 1.5m tall, each adorned with a number of gently nodding, backswept flowers. Planted late it makes a great companion for damson-coloured dahlias such as D. ‘Arabian Night’ or Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’. Alternatively, set against a background of plummy foliage this special lily is guaranteed to create a little bit of autumn ecstasy.