Sunday, 13 April 2014

Time For Some Casual Lily Gilding...

A locally occurring native plant that looks fabulous, smells divine, is “as tough as buggery” yet easy to grow.  It sounds like some weird, antipodean, utopian dream but it's fortunate botanical reality.

The Swamp Lily (Crinum Pedunculatum) can be found in NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory and occurs naturally close to mangroves as well as on the edge of forests. It is a robust plant that grows up to 2 metres tall (with a spread to 3 metres) and thrives in both full sun or partial shade. Crinum ( from the Greek, Krinon, meaning Lily) is a genus of around 100 species, most are African, with 5 native to Australia. This one flowers from around November and its elegant white spidery blooms are followed by the production of bulbous seed pods, which can easily be potted or transferred to create new plants. I grew the plants pictured from pods I gathered from the wild.

The plants are sometimes voraciously eaten by two kinds of moth caterpillar (Spodoptera Picta and Brithys Crini) but the massed,  yellow and black striped creatures are a spectacular sight in themselves and the lily will recover and re-sprout (so there’s no need for the chemical warfare recommended by most "conventional" gardening guides).

April is "Munch Time"

Aborigines used sap from the Crinum to ease the pain of marine stings and the plant was also used to make materials for fishing lures.

So, get rid of your boring, weedy, foreign Cliveas and Agapanthus and replace them with something authentic and much more’ll never regret it! 

 And as for "gilding the lily" ? The expression is a common misquotation from Shakespeare's play King John. The correct line is this 

"To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, to throw a perfume on the violet, to smooth the ice, or add another hue unto the rainbow, or with taper-light to seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish, is wasteful and ridiculous excess."
The beauteous
eye of heaven
needs no garnish