Behold the lilies of the field, how they grow….

This is a little tribute to  my mother, and to the lilies that grow in my garden, as they once did in hers..


My mother Myra. Circa 1958

When we moved to our property in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales the vendors left us with  a detailed  plan of the garden.  It  indicated a bed of lily-of-the-valley, but sadly I could find no trace of them. My mother grew lily-of-the-valley in a cool spot by the chimney, and when I returned to Tasmania some years ago I discovered they were still thriving. Later, friends gave me some pips, which I planted in her memory.   It is always special to see the tiny spears pushing through the soil in spring, whether in a pot or a garden bed.


Posy of lily-of-the-valley


Lily-of-the-valley growing with ajuga

The promise of spring.

The promise of spring.


The fragrant bells of lily-of-the-valley.

The fragrant bells of lily-of-the-valley.

I also planted  a bed of what were perhaps her favourite flowers; white blooming November lilies. We always called  them Christmas lilies because they flowered in  December. To me, their fragrance is as evocative of Christmas as pine needles and mince pies.

Christmas lilies (photo courtesy of Rhona Brown)

Christmas lilies (photo courtesy of Rhona Brown)

Although Mum was highly allergic to their pollen she would bring a huge bunch into the house, battling symptoms so serious that she often struggled to get the decorations up and the puddings boiled.

Next to  the lilies I built a little stone chamomile seat. something  I had yearned for  ever since seeing the wonderful example at Sissinghurst; Vita Sackville-West’s famous garden in England


A memorial to my mother Myra.

Sitting on the little chamomile seat beside the the lilies;  my memorial to my mother Myra.

I ordered the lily corms  from a catalogue and was so  excited when the postman delivered them.  They have done really well, but to my great disappointment they were the wrong sort, and have no perfume whatsoever.I call them the let-down lilies!

The let-down lilies

Beautiful, but no fragrance.

On special occasions Mum  would bake arum lilies for us. (I must plant some  more arums). Here is the recipe.

Arum Lilies;

3 eggs

2 ozs. Plain flower

½ teaspoon baking powder

6 ozs. sugar

2 ozs. cornflour

Separate whites from yolks of eggs. Beat whites untill stiff then add sugar and lastly yolks. Beat well. Sift flour with baking powder and stir in lightly. On a greased oven tray place four teaspoons of mixture for each lily. Bake in a hot oven for about 7 minutes. Remove and press into lily shape immediately.

The lilies ready to be filled with cream.

The lilies ready to be filled.

Fill with cream when cold and decorate with jelly.

Somebody told  me they called them  Jelly Bags, which I think is rather sweet.

The old garden plan showed a bed of spectacular Asian lilies as well, and I have since transplanted them to several other sites. They make lovely cut flowers, but be careful; like many lilies the pollen on the stamens will stain your clothes.

Tall growing Asian lilies.

Tall growing Asian lilies.

Day lilies have never quite captured my imagination, but I must admit they  look good as cut flowers too. Mine are very common old varieties.


Daylilies on the stove.

UPDATE – April 2017. My gardening friend Maureen has generously sent me some ‘proper’ Christmas lily bulbs. I have planted them is several spots around the garden to give them the best chance of success.


Editor Des Christmas lilies

My garden helper Des is delighted to see the bulbs.

DECEMBER – Here are some growing happily among self-seeded potatoes. They have buds, so I may have lilies for Christmas.

Christmas lilies

Doing so well.


The other really nostalgic plant in my garden is an apple tree, a graft from my mother’s garden. Here is the story of ERNIE APPLE TREE.



  1. What a lovely tribute to your mother. I do love the perfume of Christmas Lilies and whenever I smell them it takes me right back to my childhood. Never thought of baking them! My grandmother loved Lily of the Valley and I was pleased to find some in our garden when we moved here 18 months ago.

    • Pauline

      Thanks Christine, I remember a lady in Sydney ringing a radio garden programme and asking whether she could grow lily-of-the-valley if she cooled the ground with large blocks of ice! There’s determination for you.

  2. A beautiful tribute.. Happy Mother’s Day… and lots of happy memories..

    • Pauline

      Thanks Chris, visiting my MIL today, although I don’t think she will know it’s Mother’s Day. Wishing you a special day.

  3. A special day to remember your mother.
    I enjoyed reading your memories.
    I also remember the chamomile seat at Sissinghurst.
    Yours would release its lovely aroma wile sitting on it.

    • Pauline

      Thanks June. I adored Sissinghurst and my Mum would have too. She loved her garden.

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