martagons: what’s not to love?
TA-DA! That’s what I hear when I see the vivid red martagon lily named ‘Claude Shride’ open up his blossoms in June and throw back his tepals (the technical word for what in lilies look like petals). Ta-da! We’re in a very “ta-da!” mood here this week at A Way to Garden, so it seemed perfect that he decided to open as if on cue. Want to know more about my beautiful boy?
Martagon lilies (Lilium martagon), also referred to as Turk’s cap lilies, have been in cultivation since 1596, and hail originally from Eurasia (meaning in this case Portugal to Siberia, with lots of color and height variations along the route). The individual blooms aren’t gigantic like modern hybrids, but there are many of them on a stem: like 12 or 15 by my count today. Stems can rise up to head-height, though many varieties are just 4 or so feet high.
The best thing about martagons is their adaptability: They are as good, both aesthetically and culturally, in a quite-sunny flower bed as in a woodsy-looking shade garden (not too dark, now; at least give them good filtered light so they bloom well). The worst thing is how hard it is to get your hands on some. Martagons aren’t fast to multiply, so bulb vendors can come up short year to year, and you won’t always be able to get what you are looking for. Meaning: Grab them up while you can, and tuck them in for years and years of beauty.
I love the martagons’ whorled leaves that ring the stem at regular intervals, and how sturdy they are. Besides dear Claude, who came a couple of years back from the Klehms out in the Midwest, I have a paler seedling who remains nameless (bottom photo), but strongly resembles ‘Mrs. R.O. Backhouse.’ They don’t have Claude right now, but Tony Avent in North Carolina does. Leave martagons in place if you can, and let them do their thing. And their thing is especially nice among both shrubs and other perennials…meaning it’s time to order more.