Running Late

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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’




Categories: Beautiful Strangers, Bulbs, Container gardening, Flowers, Foliage, Plants

Posted by The Frustrated Gardener

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22 comments On "Running Late"

  1. Oh my me too! And thank you for posting this because it promoted me to put in a bulb order! We are having an early spring but companies are only just now sending out spring bulbs. I love the Pineapple Lily and I am thinking to track it down and try it in a pot. Happy Gardening!

    1. Pleased to be of service. Of all bulbs, I can usually rely on Eucomis to come back big and strong every year. They even survived all the paint and plaster-laden water that the builders tipped over them!

  2. Oh my me too, Dan, some of those you mention I just pulled out by hundreds and chucked them in the bin, they spread like wild fire here in Western Australia. However, your garden will be another bulb theater. As always, I just loooove your posts.

    1. Thanks Barbara. You are very blessed where you are in terms of growing all the things that are a bit borderline in the UK. Now we’re into March I am hoping the worst of the cold is over and we can look forward to spring. Today is certainly very mild. Have a lovely weekend. Dan

  3. Lovely scented white belladonna looking pristine here in New Zealand in early autumn. Doubt if it’s Hathor though, it doesn’t have the golden throat and has a narrower trumpet shape.

  4. Thank you for this inspirational post. I am in love with amaryllis this season as the house ones have been incredible. Three flowerings of the most exquisite blooms.
    I am going to look for some of the plants you have featured. Oh to have room for that magnolia!!
    Best Wishes

    1. Hi Jeni. I will be training the magnolia quite tightly to the wall so that it doesn’t take too much light from the windows. I am hoping it will hide the rather random brickwork that’s come as a consequence of all our building work. Photos to follow, when it’s in situ. Have a lovely weekend.

  5. My work/life balance has slipped as well, so I feel your pain. I’ve even turned over the vegetable patch to the spare (the heir isn’t interested). (The nomenclature is a joke–our patch of suburbia is barely worth the cost of the paperwork to pass on.) I would like to get in some crocosmia, though. How do you work eucomis into a small garden? I assume in a pot…I imagine the size and basal presentation makes a big flat spot in a border.

    1. I do grow them in pots, yes. However some have much more upright leaves. When they clump-up the leaves also tend to radiate out less. If you had the right spot and the right soil, I would suggest planting them in the ground, but beware slugs and snails who regard them as highly munchable.

  6. We had a M. grandiflora in our previous garden which grew to be rather magnificent in the 8 years we tended it – the short-lived flowers had a lovely scent. I absolutely love the look of that gladiolus, especially in the glorious tapestry planting at the Olympic park. You’ve many treats in store!

    1. I hope so! I am excited about the magnolia as I think that side of the house needs something strong and evergreen to cover it. Plus I will have a source of lovely leaves for Christmas arrangements.

      That photo of the Olympic park really took me back. It was taken before the practice run of the opening ceremony. I am planning to back this year, 5 years on, to see how the planting has matured.

      1. Ours was next to a west-facing fence (in Twickenham) and grew big and strong, always looking wonderful. It’s a super plant. Hope yours does well for you.

  7. Scrumptious photos – and this is why I love your blogs along with the contagious enthusiasm that only a gardener knows………..

  8. Have you ever grown Polianthes tuberosa Dan…wonderful tuberose white flowers and heady smell like strong Jasmine I have just done my annual order from Van Meuwen

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