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Madonna lily
Madonna lily
(Lilium candidum LINN.)

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Lilies

Family: N.O. Liliaceae



The Lilies belong to a genus consisting of less than 100 known species, occurring in all parts of the Northern Hemisphere. They are mostly found growing in fairly good soil in association with shrubs and other plants which shade their roots and help to keep the bulbs cool and in a uniform state as regards moisture.

---Cultivation---With some exceptions, Lilies grown as garden plants in this country are fairly hardy, especially if planted deep enough and in doubtful cases given protection with ashes or dry litter. The majority of Lilies require a soil fairly rich in humus or vegetable mould, and if it is desirable to plant Lilies in poor soil or in chalky districts, an area must be dug out 2 feet deep and filled in with kitchen garden soil mixed with fibrous loam and sand. Plant the bulbs fully 3 inches deep in most cases and surround them with an envelope of sand 1/2 inch thick; this allows excessive moisture to pass away freely; it acts also as a guard against the attacks of slugs, and, by reason of its sterility, as a barrier against the spread of such fungoid diseases as may infest the surrounding soil and which would be likely to destroy the bulbs if they gained access to them. The bulbs of all Lilies root quicker and with greater freedom if a few pieces of peat are placed beneath them when planted. Many cases of failure can be traced to the condition of the soil, as the bulbs rot during winter owing to the presence of stagnant moisture: it is useless to plant Lilies in very poor ground or in any position which is waterlogged in winter. In their native countries they enjoy more sunshine in their growing season than we usually get and wet at the root during winter often proves fatal to many of them. When growing, however, all Lilies require plenty of moisture. If they are neglected in this respect they will not produce the glorious spikes of flowers they are capable of; moreover, a Lily once drought-stricken or in any way seriously checked in growth so as to produce debility, rarely recovers its health. Disappointment with Lilies is due often also to late planting, but if good home-grown bulbs of the different kinds are planted before the end of September, to give them time to make their natural autumn growth, they should, in suitable soil, flower well the next year.

A large number of varieties produce two distinct sets of root - those from the base of the bulb and others from the base of the stem, above the bulb. These are termed 'stem-rooting.'

In planting Lily bulbs, two points are essential to bear in mind: (1) Does the species relish lime or detest it? (2) Is it a stem-rooter, demanding in consequence to be deeply planted, or is it provided with basal roots only, requiring less depth in planting?

Lilium candidum, L. Martagon and L. tigrinum succeed in well-drained sandy loam and may with advantage be planted in the herbaceous border, all except candidum being planted at least 6 to 8 inches in depth.

The best manure for all Lilies is wood ash, provided it has been carefully stored in a dry place, because its virtue consists in the potash it contains, which a single shower suffices to dissolve and wash to waste. The ash of twigs and leaves contains a larger percentage of potash than that of large branches and logs.

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---Propagation---Lilies are propagated by means of division or offsets, which as such increase freely, but increase by seed and bulbscales are the more usual methods.

L. tigrinum and some others produce little bulbs in the axils of the leaves, which form a ready means of increase and only need growing on under suitable conditions to produce flowering bulbs. L. candidum produces plenty of small bulbs around the parent bulb and thus affords a ready means of increase. For those that do not produce seeds or offsets readily, propagation by bulb-scales is resorted to, each healthy scale being capable of producing a new bulb at its base. The scales are pulled off and inserted in pans and boxes of sandy soil and stood in cold frames, when in about six months small bulbs are produced at the base of the scales.

All Lilies that do not afford a ready means of increase by bulbils or division, or bulbscales should be grown by seeds, which is the only way to attain success in this country with many of them. Imported bulbs as a rule only grow for one or two years and then die; although immense consignments of beautiful Asiatic species of Lilies are annually imported, less than 50 per cent of them survive to a second season, flowering, if at all, only once from nutriment stored within the bulb, the cause being probably want of care in raising and packing the bulb and the fact, also, that the great majority of bulbs on arrival are found to be infested with mites or fungus.

Lilies grown from seed take from two to six years to produce flowers. When raising from seed, a regular rotation should be maintained by sowing a quantity of seed each year. Many Lilies germinate exceedingly well in cold frames when sown in March, April or May. When the young seedlings have made their second or third leaf, they may be planted outdoors in a sheltered border during the spring, to get well-established before winter, the less hardy ones being grown in frames.

The mould Botrytis cinerea, which attacks so many garden plants, often attacks Lilies, especially L. candidum: it is usually the foliage that is attacked. On the first signs, the plants should be sprayed with a solution of sulphide of potassium, using an ounce to a gallon of warm water (temperature 100 degrees to 120 degrees F.), at the same time removing any affected leaves and burning them. If a little soft soap is dissolved with the mixture, it adheres muchbetter to the foliage and is not so easily washed off by rain. In bad cases, the bulbs may be affected, in which case they should be thoroughly dusted with flowers of sulphur. Cut off and burn the diseased stems, lift the bulbs, place them in a large paper bag containing flowers of sulphur, give a good shaking to work the sulphur well into the scales and then replant in a fresh site. This precaution has often proved successful in warding off a subsequent attack of the disease.

The disease is a more or less mysterious one: it often appears in a virulent form in one garden, whereas in a neighbouring one the plants may be quite free from it. Once it finds foothold in the soil of a garden it remains there, potent for evil whenever the atmospheric conditions are favourable. In dull, chilly, damp summers, the disease becomes epidemic, and does widespread harm to many plants besides Lilies. The sun is the most powerful antidote against the fungus, which is spread by spores too minute for the eye to see.

It is often said that white Lilies in cottage gardens are exempt from attacks of the disease, but in an epidemic they are spared no more than are those in manor gardens. Spraying the foliage with a solution of potassium sulphide helps to keep the disease in check, but it is not a cure; no absolute remedy has yet been discovered, and those who plant this lily must not expect to have it in full beauty every year. This country has relied too much on other nations for its supply of bulbs in the past, and quantities of infected bulbs of L. candidum are imported annually from Central and Southern France, where la Toile - as the French call B. cinerea - has even more of a grip than it has here; and the rapid spread of the disease may well be due in some measure to that tainted source. All the bulbs needed in Great Britain could be grown here. The wild Grecian form of L. candidum seems more resistant to Botrytis than the cultivated forms.

Lilies are on the whole singularly free from insect and other pests, though wood-lice sometimes prove troublesome. On some soils, slugs are the chief menace; the grey slug attacks the stem and leaves, but the black slug is the more insidious, as it attacks the bulbs and working underground is difficult to deal with. The best means of keeping slugs in check are good cultivation and trapping. One mode of trapping that is much recommended is, to place on the ground in the evening boards smeared on their under sides with a mixture of flour and stale beer.Examine the boards every morning and destroy the catch. Dry bran also catches many. Coarse, clean sand and small sifted cinders placed round the bulbs will also ward off attacks.

Mice will eat bulbs, especially L. tigrinum, and the edible Lilies of Japan.

In China, the dried scales of L. japonicum are considered nourishing and useful in diseases of the chest, as a substitute for Salep, the product of Orchis tubers.

L. Martagon (Linn.), the PURPLE TURK'S CAP LILY, is occasionally found growing wild in this country, but is rare, though it has been met with on chalk hills and in woody places in the south of England. It is, however, much cultivated, and is the hardiest of all Lilies, doing well in full sunshine, or in partial shade. It is a lime-lover, very easy to cultivate, usually increases very freely, and is easily raised from seed. It is strong-growing, but very graceful, producing twenty to thirty light spotted, purple flowers, on a tall stem, having reflexed petals, forming a sort of turban, the stamens appearing like a tuft of feathers at the top. The flowers give off their scent at night.

The Martagon group of Lilies, the form of whose flowers has led to their being called Turk's Cap, comprises many of our best known garden species whose habitats are in widely distant portions of the globe. From America have been introduced the so-called Swamp Lilies, L. pardalinum, the Panther Lily, L. canadense and L. superbum. L. Hansoni hails from Japan, and these with the Martagons proper carry their leaves in whorls, while in the best known of the remaining species the leaves are scattered on the stem. Of these may be mentioned the scarlet Turk's Cap (L. chalcedonicum) from Greece; L. pyrenaicum (straw-coloured) from the Pyrenees; L. monadelphum from the Caucasus; L. pomponium verum (yellow) from Italy.

The old Martagon is the commonest European species, being distributed throughout the whole of the southern and central portions of the Continent. It was mentioned by Gerard in his list of garden plants in 1596, and, though now out of favour, owing to its dull purple colour, has remained in cultivation, especially in cottage plots, ever since. Though interesting for its old associations, it is now superseded by the more striking forms. Although the purple Martagon bulbs are eaten in their native countries, they are too local here to be reckoned as one of our esculent herbs.

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Bear in mind "A Modern Herbal" was written with the conventional wisdom of the early 1900's. This should be taken into account as some of the information may now be considered inaccurate, or not in accordance with modern medicine.

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