Over the last few years, gardening friends have been warning me about a garden scourge the seems to be new(ish) to my area. The lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii) is a pretty red and black beetle that defoliates just about anything in the Lily family, but seems to focus on Asiatics, Fritillaria, Soloman’s Seal, as well as any Lilium.
While the adult is beautifully bright scarlet, also making it very easy to spot, its progeny is a thing of nightmares. It’s a horrible thick blob of a thing that covers itself in its own excrement as a defence against predators and proceeds to eat emerging lily foliage to the ground. Now, I’m not at all squeamish when it comes to creepy crawlies of all types and I have a genuine curiosity about any creature that lives in my garden. As an organic gardener I am definitely not above squishing unwanted pests with my bare hands — it may not be pleasant, but its the safest (and sometimes quickest) method of pest control. But there is just something about a creature that instinctually slathers itself in its own body waste that commands a slow clap and a bow. Well done, lily beetle. Well done. I’ll be coming for you with gloves on, thank-you-very-much.
A few of the Fritillaria michailowski blooms are now fully open for business. I took advantage of the sun today and grabbed a couple of snaps before I head out to Milwaukee tomorrow and miss my chance to capture the plant at its peak.
Although the blooms are not quite fully opened, I could not resist posting a picture of my Fritillaria michailowski in bloom just this morning. I’m really excited about this plant! It’s the one I was most concerned about at planting time, so I figure it’s all smooth sailing from here… at least where the fall bulbs are concerned.
I planted the bulbs back in the late fall and placed the pot in our unheated, south-facing covered porch, aka “The Greenhouse.” Fritillaria michailowski is a cold tolerant flower from Turkey that likes very well draining soil and sun. I opted to grow these in a pot rather than in the ground because I was concerned that they would be lost in our empty backyard given their diminutive size (about 4″). We seem to have inherited soil that is on the loamy side of sandy, which is a pretty excellent texture for bulb growing. If you’ve got heavier soil, I’d suggest going with pots.
I’m considering transferring the bulbs to the backyard garden later this year once it is up and running and the beds have been defined.
Growing in Pots
I used a commercially prepared cactus soil and topped it off with a gravel mulch. The gravel I used is leftover from a freshwater aquarium that I shut down and sold off a few years back.
The pot (6.5″ deep) is made of something like a soft terracotta and is meant to look like stone. I bought it for $5 at a used items store and drilled holes in the bottom for drainage using a masonry bit.
I purchased the bulbs from Garden Import, but I no longer recall how much they cost. There were five bulbs in the package at planting time, but only four came up so you can see this growing experiment wasn’t a total success. Regardless, four out of five gorgeous, healthy plants is good enough in my book.
I seem to like every spring-blooming flower within this genus. They have an elegance about them that I find appealing.