Two springs ago I bought a large number of lilies – a daft idea since the garden was nowhere near ready for them. But I planted them in pots and they brought moments of joy while we were trying to fix skirting boards to curved walls and stick tiles to walls. Then, last spring the pots were popped in the soil as the borders were defined and up they came again. But this time the lily beetles tracked them down and I caught a few. Some of the lilies gave up the ghost over winter, probably because of poor soil drainage. But they are up again and somehow the lily beetle are back. I have no idea where they come from because none were allowed to breed in this garden. They are not native to Ireland and only feed on lilies and fritillarias so it is hard to think they have made a reservoir of individuals in the wild.
For the past week I have been checking the lilies and have found one or two a day. They seem to prefer the Asiatic lilies and they hide down in the leaves of the shoot tips. Nibbled leaves, either around the edge or even the centre of the leaves, are a sign that they are around. And it is vital to catch them immediately, before they find a lover and lay eggs that will hatch into grubs and then devastate your plants. The grubs pupate in the soil under your plants but the adults can fly so you are not safe – well your lilies aren’t.
Carefully pick off the red beetles (they drop to the ground when disturbed) and dance on them – preferably the Mexican hat dance
It is such a shame about lily beetle because lilies are otherwise easy to grow these days with improved and remarkable hybrids. I have more on order – I am slightly concerned that they have not arrived yet!
New growth has also revealed that I have another lily problem. The other curse of lilies is virus. There are many viruses that affect lilies and if just one is present the plants may not show signs. But if viruses accumulate plants show streaked leaves and flowers and finally stunting and maybe flower buds do not develop. There is no cure and plants must be destroyed. These will have to be dug up.