by Matt Weston, garden apprentice
July brings an abundance of blooming flowers to Fulham Palace, but even amongst the vibrant flowers of our garden one flower is so large and bold that it still manages to stand out to me, Lillium ‘Stargazer’. Looking at the first flower to open last week I was transported back to my childhood. It reminded me of standing in my uncle’s florist, a place that was a happy explosion of colour in direct contrast to the grey London street outside, and the air was thick with the intoxicating scent of this flower.
The moment passes as I look closely at the intricate mottled pink markings on the tepal, the stamens heavy with bright orange pollen. This Oriental lily hybrid originated in California in 1974 and was a breakthrough in plant breeding at the time. Unlike most Oriental group lilies that hang downwards, this flower points skyward as if gazing at the stars.
Unbelievably, this extremely exotic looking plant is hardy to -15C and is described as ‘easy to grow’ and ‘a reliable garden performer’. They grow best in full sun with a thick mulch to keep their bulbs cool. They will grow fast and require little care (no need for staking). They feed in spring, and deadheading works best to keep Stargazer lilies producing their blossoms. By cutting the individual flower stalks away from the rest of the plant of each flower after it blooms, you will keep all the energy in the plant concentrated on producing more flowers.
Lily beetles had visited the garden earlier this year but the leaf-eating larvae were easily removed, having caused only a little damage to the appearance of the plants. I would highly recommend Stargazer lilies to anyone who has a sunspot in their garden and love for flowers that are overwhelming to the eyes and nose!