Aromatic Arums

One of my favourite flowers at this time of the year is the timeless arum lily, Zantedeschia aethiopica. Not actually a lily at all, this is an aroid, with a brilliant white spathe surrounding a pale yellow spadix (the pointy-uppy bit!). The latin name might also suggest origins in Ethiopia but, whilst African, it actually hails from the south of the continent. The classic white arum is well known as a bridal and a funeral flower, but the incomparable scent of the blooms is rarely referenced. For me, the fresh, delicate perfume is reminiscent of a very delicate white rose, but stands on its own as something quite special, to be enjoyed in June.

I am lucky to have mine growing in well drained raised beds, at nose level. This goes against the general advice of cultivating them in moist, humus rich soil or even in shallow water. The plants are now five years old and form strong clumps. The sharp drainage means it’s possible to interplant with alliums and lilies, which would not be possible in a wetter soil. In mild winters, the leaves come through unscathed, and look great until Christmas, but for the last two years they have been reduced to heaps of slimy green mush by February. This makes way for an underplanting of tulips, which are swiftly engulfed by the emerging leaves in late April. The arums are now producing numerous pure white, scented flowers, which will continue into July. What a joy, here interplanted with Allium “Globemaster”.

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