Running Late


As someone who usually extols the virtues of timeliness, I have been letting myself down rather a lot lately. I planted my spring-flowering bulbs late (some just a fortnight ago) and now I am behind with ordering my summer-flowering bulbs too. Between October and late March my work / life balance tips firmly in favour of work, and everything else goes out of the window. Thankfully bulbs and plants are more tolerant than most people believe, possessing an amazing ability to catch up when they don’t receive text-book treatment.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s still ample time to be consulting your plant catalogues, but I had set my heart on a number of bulbs that were clearly flagged as being in very short supply. Surprise, surprise, they are already out of stock. It seems I will have to wait until next year to get my grubby hands on pure white Amaryllis ‘Hathor’ (perhaps a narrow escape as the bulbs were £15 each) and flame-red Nerine sarniensis ‘Glen Savage’.


Nerine sarniensis ‘Glen Savage’ (photo Broadleigh Bulbs)


In a break from tradition, I have decided to place a large chunk of my bulb order with Broadleigh Bulbs in Somerset. Christine Skelmersdale’s new catalogue offers an expanded selection of South African treasures, including agapanthus, nerine, amarine (vigorous hybrids between amaryllis and nerine), crocosmia, hesperantha, gladiolus, eucomis and zantedeschia. I am a sucker for all of these, so have made what I hope is a judicious choice from the many enticing options available.


Eucomis montana growing at Wisley (source unknown)


I am most excited about Eucomis montana. Eucomis, otherwise known as pineapple lilies, do well for me. That is unless they have dark foliage, like E. ‘Sparkling Burgundy’, in which case I can’t offer them sufficient sunlight to colour-up properly. Eucomis montana isn’t listed in the Broadleigh Bulbs catalogue, but can be found on their website. It has perky apple-green leaves with dark edges, and greenish-white flowers with purple-brown stamens. The overall look of the plant is much more statuesque than Eucomis bicolor, which I also grow.


Gladiolus papilio 'Ruby', July 2012, Olympic Park
Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’ in the Southern hemisphere borders at the London Olympic Park, July 2012.


At the London 2012 Olympics, in what is now the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, I recall my first encounter with the deep crimson flowers of Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’. I will soon be in possession of three bulbs, which I hope will find my garden as inviting as Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus does. There is something so sumptuous about those berry-coloured flowers, protruding nonchalantly from their arching stems. Quite delicious.


Amaryllis belladonna, Sissinghurst, August 2014
Amaryllis belladonna, photographed by yours truly at Trebah, Cornwall


Next in my online basket is half a dozen Amaryllis belladonna. Customers are promised ‘huge bulbs’, which bodes well for enjoying flowers later this year. Having witnessed Amaryllis belladonna growing in Sicily I was immediately entranced by these nubile flowers, commonly referred to as naked ladies. I have a tiny raised bed with exceptionally sharp drainage where my bare ladies should feel warm and protected.

I didn’t bag all the nerines I wanted, but have added to my collection with tender Nerine sarniensis var. corusca ‘Major’ and N. filamentosa. My plan is to plant out most of my nerines along the pathway leading from the street to our back door, but to keep these two newbies in pots in the greenhouse.


Zantedeschia ‘Kiwi Blush’ (photo, Ballyrobert Gardens)


Finally, I could not resist Zantedeschia ‘Kiwi Blush’. I must be developing a thing for pink, as I have bought a lot of blush and shell-pink flowers of late. The common species, Zantedeschia aethiopica, thrives in the gardens of Broadstairs, so I am excited to discover how this delicately flushed variant does for me.

In the meantime, my Burncoose Nurseries order is also just in, comprising a large Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’ to grow against the west facing wall of our ‘new’ house; Schefflera rhododendrifolia, destined for a shady corner ‘somewhere’; and Xeronema callistemon, the Poor Knights Lily, which is rumoured to bide its time for fifteen years before producing its scarlet hairbrush flowers.


Xeronema callistemon (photo: Strange Wonderful Things)
Xeronema callistemon (photo: Strange Wonderful Things)


I have scarcely started thinking about dahlias and lilies yet. Truth is I don’t really need any more of either, and without the pressure of having to achieve floral perfection in time for opening the garden (we are taking a year off in 2017), I’d be well advised to save my pennies for other things.  If only I took my own advice!

Have a wonderful weekend. TFG.


Magnolia grandiflora 'Exmouth'
Magnolia grandiflora ‘Exmouth’