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..
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.
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.
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
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!
On special occasions Mum would bake arum lilies for us. (I must plant some more arums). Here is the recipe.
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.
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.
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.
DECEMBER – Here are some growing happily among self-seeded potatoes. They have buds, so I may have lilies for Christmas.
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.
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