LILIES can be some of the most opulent and extravagant flowers in the garden. Their huge, waxy pendant blooms often providing a deep, overpoweringly heady, sweet scent. Gorgeous illustrations in the bulb catalogues prove almost irresistible.

But despite all that potential, out in the garden after the first year’s flowering they sometimes dwindle and in time disappear altogether. That may leave room to try another variety, but I prefer something with a little more staying power, something that will hold its own in the competitive battle that is border life.

So, Lilium pyrenaicum is the one for me. Originally it was native to the hills of southern Europe, as hinted at in the ‘Pyrenees’ part of its name. This form is truly tried and tested here, however, and has thrived in our gardens since Elizabethan times. It copes with conditions in the UK so well that it has even escaped the confines of domestication and successfully naturalised, becoming part of the British wild flower scene.

Even early in the season, its foliage makes a worthy garden feature. Its long narrow, silver edged leaves are held in tight whorls around the stem giving the impression, as they rise up in spring, of dense bright green bottle brushes. It is a hardy and sturdy grower reaching about two to three feet high by early summer.

The flowers themselves are undoubtedly beautiful and retain a delicacy that can sometimes be missing in the high powered, highly bred, over large hybrids. They are ‘turk’s-cap’ in form with bright, vivid yellow petals, curving back and up. They are flecked and speckled deep maroon back into the throat enclosing the prominent central group of orange stamens. Up to a dozen flowers can be held on individual stems, but it is much more usual to see just two or three. Impressive enough, as the plants form dense clumps of such stems in time.

These ‘Pyrenean Lilies’ or ‘Yellow Turk’s-cap Lilies’ as they are sometimes known, are said to have a somewhat unpleasant scent. But I have been hard pressed to pick up any aroma at all, even on the closest of encounters. To me, they are winners in every way, and given good soil with good drainage will go on giving their wonderful garden performance for years.

Chris Crowder is head gardener at Levens Hall

Jobs to do this week:

Prune back early flowering deciduous shrubs such as deutzias and philadelphus after their displays have finished.

Tie in new blackberry and raspberry canes.

For a succession of supply, sow herbs such as basil and coriander every two to four weeks.