Royal Horticultural Society Lily Group - page header


Lily group Members - who are they?

Lilies in the wild are distributed across the Northern hemisphere- China, Korea, Japan, Siberia, Asia, the Caucasus, Europe and North America. Yet given the right conditions they will grow in many other parts of the world. It is a love of Lilies and the challenge to grow them which unites the Group's few hundred members of all ages, of whom approximately a third are from overseas. Apart from the UK they are scattered throughout Europe, in Canada and the USA, in Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand, in Japan and Asia. Thus the potential for exchange of knowledge and seed is considerable.

History of the Lily Group

Initiated at the behest of Council in 1931 the Lily Group was formed originally as a Standing Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society. Many distinguished horticulturists (15) were appointed to the Group under the Chairmanship of Col. F C (later Sir Frederick) Stern increased at the first meeting to 30 members to include some amateur growers, together with Overseas  and Foreign Correspondents to widen the experience thus creating a knowledgeable focus of individuals with special interest and expertise in the Genus Lilium.
The committee size was limited to 40. In 1932 a memo was presented to Council proposing an expanded forum as a 'Lily Group' as so many RHS members were interested.
The objectives of the Lily Group were to 'encourage the cultivation of lilies, fritillaries, and nomocharis by holding meetings for lectures and discussions, by visiting gardens where these plants are well grown and to promote research. An annual Lily Year Book would be published and an International Lily Conference held at approximately 10 year intervals. A number of research projects in conjunction with the RHS garden at Wisley were proposed and commenced, and collection of data such as Constable's article on the structural composition of Lily Bulbs in the 1946 year book.
The '39-'45 war created a hiatus and a general winding down of activity. In 1949 the Group played a part in organising a trial of Lilies at Wisley but for a time there was little activity.
The Year Book was discontinued after 1971 by the RHS on the grounds of cost. After some faltering it was succeeded by the biennial publication of Lilies and Related Plants published by the Lily Group..
In 1978 Council proposed that the Committee should become semi-independent as the RHS Lily Group Committee. The Group would then be responsible for its own elections, finances and programme under the auspices of the RHS but no longer have the status of a Standing Committee. The seed distribution, commenced in 1976 with James Platt and Molly Pottinger and expanded now world-wide by Alan Hooker, has established an important factor in encouraging the growing of Lilies. Modern needs of the horticultural trade led to expanding availability of hybrids but a virtual disappearance of most lily species. The enthusiasm of amateurs in growing from seed creates a potential compensation for their loss in the wild.

Ref. Brent Elliott - A Brief History of the RHS Lily Committee. Lilies and Related Plants 2007-8


Benefits of Membership

The Seed List: Members of the Group and friends from around the world contribute their surplus seed of lily species and hybrids, other Liliaceae and plants from many other families. These are distributed to members early each year. The Seed List includes many plants which are virtually unobtainable elsewhere; the lily species section alone usually includes nearly 200 distinct items.

The Bulb Auction: Members' surplus bulbs are auctioned in October each year at different venues around the country.

Newsletters: Two or three are distributed each year with news of forthcoming events and updates of activity.

Lilies and Related Plants published biennially is our major publication. It contains articles on plants, geography, gardens, people and knowledge of interest to the Lily Group.

Garden visits and other events:  The Group arranges visits to gardens featuring lilies and other plants likely to interest lily-growers - often gardens that are rarely if ever open to the public. It arranges occasional talks and demonstrations, and every few years hosts an international conference.