Monday 20 November 2017

Elegant lily makes a show

The arum lily
The arum lily

Gerry Daly

The arum lily is one of the most elegant garden flowers. It is widely grown and its tall stems with large white flowers are a common sight peeping over garden walls these days. Its vase-shaped flowers with central yellow spadix are beautifully set off by the large heart-shaped leaves. Arum lily appears in gardens in early to mid-summer, earlier in mild areas and later in colder parts.

The arum lily is sometimes known as Easter lily because it was used then in churches, the flowers being brought on early in greenhouses. It has also long been grown in cottage gardens because it is easy to propagate and grow. Its tuberous roots can be dug up and pulled apart to make new plants and so it's easy to pass on to others.

It also often produces seeds and these sometimes sprout in gardens around the base of the parent plant, particularly if the ground tends to be moist. Seeds of the plant have been known to have been carried downstream and germinate on a wet bank. This is not common, however, and arum lily is not likely to become an invasive species, which it has become in some countries of warm climate.

In its native South Africa, the arum lily is mostly found in marshy ground, growing in roadside drains and wet areas. Plants can be grown in shallow water at the edge of a pond, or in the marshy overflow of a pond. It does not like to be in more than a few centimetres depth of water, as it can become stunted by deeper water with slower growth in spring and not flower much as a result. The foliage usually dies back as a result of frost in winter.

Although known widely as arum lily, it is neither a true arum nor a true lily. It is part of the arum family, and it was given its own name of Zantedeschia aethiopica. True arum is the wild lords-and-ladies of hedgerows. Apart from the commonly grown white arum lily, there is a range of related calla lilies in pink, red, orange and golden yellow.

The flowers are generally smaller than those of the white arum, and the foliage can be nicely marked with spots.

These have been used as cut flowers but are also offered for sale as plants in flower.

The new calla coloured kinds are of doubtful hardiness and are likely to suffer from frost damage in the colder parts of the country if grown outdoors. They are not as large or vigorous as the white species but can be easily grown in a pot in a greenhouse or porch.

Our large Red Robin is sick!

Q Our Red Robin is in a dark damp corner beside the shed and looks sick, but was thriving up to about two years ago. The leaves are sparse, limp and dark, but there are no spots. I planted it about 12 years ago and would like to try to save it!"
U Johnson, Co Dublin

A This tree is Photinia 'Red Robin', a popular large bush or small tree. Like most trees, it does not like damp, heavy soil as wetness damages the roots and often leads to fatal root rot disease. Drainage might help, though not likely to be possible, and the tree might be already too far gone.

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