It’s Lily Watch in the hollow, as the old Regales slowly swell in the warmth of June. Lillum regale, the classic Chinese trumpet lily, was introduced to the West in 1915 by the famed plant hunter, Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson, who literally laid down his life on a narrow mule trail above the Szechuan Valley to bring back seven thousand bulbs to the Arnold Arboretum.
We introduced them to the hollow decades ago from the mail order nursery Van Engelen where they have thrived undisturbed in full sun and rich Albemarle loam. No fertilizer and no care other than to deadhead immediately after blooms fade and allow the foliage to completely yellow before cutting to the ground. For some reason, the deer don’t eat them though I’ve always heard they’re susceptible to browse. John used to cover them with a sheet overnight to protect from late frosts, but it’s been several years since we’ve had to worry about that.
Now when they bloom they herald summer as they scent the evening air, undisputed stars of the garden, though the more demure Sweetbay magnolia holds her own as to perfume. Butterflies tunnel and bees hover, performing the immemorial task of pollination as the flowers open themselves up and give their all.