Alpine Garden Society



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Lilium martagon var. album

The Martagon lily is the most widespread of all lilies and the commonest in Europe. It occurs widely in the Alps where it is generally a meadow plant growing up to an elevation of 2100 m (7000 ft.) on a range of soils, including calcareous ones. There are several white forms in cultivation, the best of which is L. martagon var. album, which has been treasured in gardens since the 16th century, received a First Class Certificate from the RHS as long ago as 1889, and a well deserved Award of Garden Merit in 1933. As the photograph shows, it is a stately plant (height 0.75-1.25 m., 2 ft. 6in.-4 ft. 0in.) with strong stems which do not need staking even in my windy garden. The flowers, which may number up to twenty in a spike, and which are borne in May-June, are a beautiful clear ivory white with no spotting, complemented by the orange anthers carried on long, outward-curving filaments. The flowers are scented, but not especially pleasantly so.

This is an easy lily to raise from seed, which should be sown shallowly in a well-drained compost. Flowering usually takes from 3-5 years and as with most bulbs, including all lilies I have grown, this period can be reduced to a minimum by feeding the seedlings regularly when in growth. I use a general liquid feed applied at half strength at every other watering from when the seedlings emerge to when the tips of the leaves start to go brown. In my experience, provided no other Martagon lilies are nearby this white form comes true from seed. I do not recommend separating the seedlings until each has produced an appreciable bulb, probably at the end of the second season, and even then it is often best to pot the whole lot on into a larger pot or plant them out without disturbance into their allotted place in the garden. In my shady N. Wales plot a spot in the open or with light shading from distant trees is preferred, but in a sunnier climate more shade might produce better results. The exact composition of the soil is of little consequence provided it is well drained and reasonably fertile. Sometimes the clumps dwindle after a few years, and if not attended to they may disappear altogether. At the first signs of decline, lift the bulbs after flowering, separate them and either re-plant them into fresh soil in their original location, or preferably move them to another part of the garden.

See the article about Lilies.

John Good
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