Anyone familiar with Michael Jefferson-Brown’s The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Lilies will find his newest and last lily book (he died following its publication) different but complementary in its approach. The first thing that strikes is the numerous close-up colour photographs of lilies’ blooms, predominantly hybrids, by Andrew Lawson that inform more effectively than wordy descriptions, freeing the author to distill his lifetime’s nuggets of knowledge into the text.
Thus, Corrida, a pastel Oriental variety, ‘needs a good diet, perhaps an extra dash of potash to strengthen its lax stems’; there is praise for Spellbound, possessing ‘the latest in exotic scents’, and a pithy comment that Scheherazade’s bulbs ‘should be sold with ladders’ (its stems reach 9ft in their second summer).
The information is absolutely up-to-date, including that concerning the new LA hybrids bet-ween fast-growing Lilium longiflorum, flowering in its first year from seed, and Asiatic hybrids, whose genes have introduced a wide colour range into the equally fast-growing progeny. These include the variety Fiery Fred, of Michael Jefferson-Brown’s own recent raising, the initial seedling bulb having multiplied to 13 in a single season, with all 13 young bulbs flowering, in their turn, the following summer. With this and other lilies raised by him, his gold- medal exhibits at shows and his books, he leaves an indelible mark of quality upon the lily world.