Regale Lily Inspiration
“That was the moment when I first saw the lilies…..I had to possess those lilies….”“The lilies were of the variety known as Regale, and they stood in rows of glistening white down the whole length of one side of the kitchen garden.” “A faint breeze was stirring and as they nodded their heads there drifted towards us a most exquisite fragrance.” “Never before, in any garden of the world, have I seen such lilies; their loveliness was literally dazzling; the massed array of the white blossom was like sunlit snow.” The above passages are from one of my favorite books, Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols. Mr. Nichols (1898-1983) was a prolific writer on various subjects, but his garden books, which have been reprinted more recently since the 1951 first publishing with the addition of a plant index and foreward by Ann Lovejoy have enjoyed renewed popularity. Merry Hall is the first of a trilogy and his best work in this blogger’s humble opinion. It was been read and reread numerous times, always fresh and funny with stories of garden and human foibles as he bought and restored the titled Georgian style mansion. The description of the lilies had me hooked immediately and five bulbs were ordered after the initial reading, a few years ago. The display was meager until this year, one in which there have been plentiful spring rains in addition to the time passage it takes for lilies to reach their full potential. The Regales are planted just inside the boxwood hedge in the shed bed. Nasella tenuissima has self seeded in this bed providing fluffy movement as a foil for the straight and erect lily stalks. They are in the sight line of the oft mentioned lazyboy laptop position in the addition that joins the main house to the garage. Looking up to gaze at these royal beauties never fails to bring a sigh of happiness. But there is more to the story, in the book and in the Fairegarden…. Speaking to the gardener that came with Merry Hall, Oldfield, a classic character of the old school, Beverley has suggested that more of the Regale lilies might be added to the row.
“Says Oldfield, ‘Were you thinking of buying boolbs?’
I had, very definitely, been thinking of buying boolbs. But, I realized my mistake just in time.
‘Oh no…’ I stammered.
‘Hmph!’ His one eye pierced me through and through.
I shook my head.
‘T’would seem to me to be a pity,’ he observed.
There was a long pause.
‘Seeing as ‘ow all these was grown from seed,’ he added.
…Seeds it must be.”
And for me as well, after the initial purchase of five boolbs. Seeds of the Chinese Trumpet lilies grown here, Regale and Golden Splendor, in addition to Black Dragon seeds from Mr. McGregor’s Daughter were sown in the greenhouse late last winter with good results.
Common Name: regal lily
Zone: 4 to 8
Plant Type: Bulb
Missouri Native: No
Native Range: Western China
Height: 3 to 7.5 feet
Spread: 0.75 to 1 foot
Bloom Time: July Bloom Data
Bloom Color: Pink-purple outside, trumpet white inside w/ yellow throat
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Grow in full sun with some shade in late afternoon. Too much shade can make lilies leggy, “stretching” for the sun. Soil must be well-drained, with added compost or peat moss. Top dress in fall with mulch to avoid “heaving” from early winter thaws. Keep soil cool in summer with over-plantings of ground covers or annuals. Plant 2 to 3 times as deep as their diameter.
June and July are lily season here in southeast Tennessee. The Asiatics, LA hybrids, Chinese Trumpets, Orientals and some species do well on our well drained sunny slopes. The vertical interest of the tall, some to seven feet, stalks of lively flowers add drama to the garden beds. Other plantings can be placed at the base of the lilies for they appreciate their feet shaded. An experiment in the knot garden of tall lilies on bamboo tripods is working out well so far. The search for a plant that would not shade out the thyme crazy quilt in the quadrants led us to the trumpets that are now budded. The dark colors chosen will be shown as they open, but none will have the heart of the gardener like the Regales first brought to our attention in Merry Hall.