Below is a photo taken in 1933, during the Great Depression. It is a Christmas lily farm at Pennant Hills, in New South wales. The farm produced 100,000 cut flowers for the  Australian florist trade that year.


Christmas lily fam in New South Wales 1933

Lilies of the field (pic from Trove)


Christmas lily display in Australia, 1950

What a display. (pic from Trove)

It seems that Christmas lilies are no longer part of our Australian festive traditions.  If there is a seasonal flower it would be scarlet poinsettia, or the  native Christmas bush, shown below.

AustralianChristmas Bush


The lilies  were also a rural  tradition, grown in  cottage style, homestead  gardens. For many  of us their fragrance evokes Christmas as  powerfully as the smell of pine needles, plum puddings  and mince pies.

But which is the ‘real’ Christmas lily? This was being debated  In The Age newspaper, way back in 1951. Some insist it’s Lilium longifloram, which flowers closest to Christmas, but the consensus seems to be Lilium candidum, even though it blooms a few weeks earlier. Both are pure white, and perfumed. I have no idea which variety  my mother grew in Tasmania, but I suspect they were  L. candidum. appropriately known as The Madonna lily.

Lilium candidum, the Madonna lily

Lilium candidum (wikipedia).

The best way to tell the difference is that L. candidum is a semi evergreen, with  a rosette of broad leaves produced after  the flowering stems die down.

I’m not religious, but I do love this poem, linking the lilies to the Virgin Mary, and  Galilee.


I used to watch, oh, long ago,

The slender Christmas lilies grow

In row on row, so straight and tall,

All burning white against the wall.

And as I saw their tender grace,

I dreamt that in another place

That as they grew, by that far sea,

Where Mary lived, is Galilee.

In Galilee, in Galilee,

Oh, that was never strange to see,

I smelled the hot and scented air

And saw the lilies everywhere.



This tender, beautiful  WWI poem was published in December 1918


Last Christmas Eve the lilies swayed,

Late-blooming by the poppies’ flame. 

And ‘neath the oleander’s shade,

Drunk with a million scents I came.

And dreaming of my own brave love,

Far off from all he held most dear,

I thought to pick a single bloom

That, loved by him, would bring him near;

And leaning out with starting tear,

One lily bloom I picked for me…

In token of his chivalry.


Christmas lilies.

Christmas lilies (photo courtesy of Rhonda Brown)

In autumn this year my friend Maureen generously  sent me some bulbs from her garden in Victoria.  Again, we are not sure of the variety, but at least  I know they are  fragrant ones, unlike those I purchased a few years ago.


Pauline Conolly with lilies

These are pretty, but  have no perfume.

Editor Des Christmas lilies

My garden helper Editor  Des is delighted to see the bulbs.

I planted them  in various positions, to give me the best chance of success. Those in an open, sunnier spot have done the best so far.. They may not flower this year, but that’s OK.


Christmas lilies coming up

Doing well, accompanied by a few self-seeded potatoes.


Just look at those buds!  I’m off across the Nullabor to Perth  in a couple of days, but when I get back I think I just might have Christmas lilies. How exciting.


Christmas lilies in bud

Oh yes!





Christmas lily watch

Encouragement from Margaret.



















  1. Hi Pauline,

    I don’t comment on your posts but I do read them 🙂 Just wanted to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and New Year.

    Bye for now,
    Cheryl xxx

  2. Merry Christmas! Enjoy those beautiful flowers. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to get too close to them as the fragrance bothers me, but they are gorgeous to look at. I really look forward to reading your posts and love the historic element. Thank you.

    • Pauline

      Thank you so much, Diane. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas too. I’m sure your granddaughters are very excited.

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