Stepping out into the garden for the first time after a holiday is always an anxious moment. Will everything still be upright? Quite how busy will the snails have been whilst I have been living it up in sunny climes? Will the watering have been done as per my instructions? How many chip wrappers / half eaten bread rolls / clumps of moss will the seagulls have deposited on the terrace for me to clean up?
In my experience the reality is never quite as ghastly as the anticipation. And this time, after a quick dead head and tidy round, the garden is looking as good as when I left it … only more autumnal.
One of the pleasures of being on holiday is coming home and seeing what’s new. A week is a long time in gardening. Having observed that every Tom, Dick and Harry in Broadstairs seems to enjoy amazing success with nerines (as they also do with Zantedeschia aethiopica and all types of agapanthus) I purchased seven different varieties in spring to supplement my inherited clump of Nerine bowdenii. The bulbs were intended for the narrow path leading to Polegate Cottage, planted in blocks of dark and light flowered hybrids. Wisely, as it turns out, I decided to keep my nerines in pots until the builders had finished trashing everything. All through the summer they have been unceremoniously shifted about to keep them out of harm’s way. Some pots ended up smothered by climbers in the greenhouse, whilst others stood outside. Now, as the strappy leaves begin to yellow, each bulb is producing a long, snake-like stem of flower buds, promising a tremendous display through October and into November.
The first to nerine to bloom, way ahead of the species, is N. bowdenii ‘Isabel’ AGM. The stems of this hybrid are long and robust, making them perfect for cutting, although I could not bring myself to disturb the flowers when they looks so spectacular outside. Unlike the pale pink species, N. bowdenii ‘Isabel’ has shocking pink blooms with prettily undulating petals. In the neighbouring pot is N. ‘Mr John’, which promises even darker pink flowers when the buds open.
With these new additions to my collection it looks as if I could extend my nerine season to almost two months. I will certainly be planting more next spring. Flowers as fabulous as these are worth coming home for.