If youíve spotted some spectacular Agapanthus-like flowers recently, but in white or shades of pink, then itís likely they were Nerines, Amaryllis or x Amarines. All have attractive showy flowers in late summer and autumn and they are becoming very popular.
The two most common forms are N. bowdenii and N. sarniensis and they are not new introductions. They have been known since the mid-1600s, when bulbs of N. sarniensis were found growing in sand dunes on Guernsey, having been washed ashore following a shipwreck nearby. Nerine bowdenii produces long, strap-like leaves in spring and then flowers in autumn. After flowering, it dies down and remains dormant until spring, so it is very hardy. In contrast, N. sarniensis flowers in autumn, then produces its leaves over winter, so it is not hardy and must be given winter protection. To grow well, both need full sun or very light shade in a well-drained spot. Plant with the neck of the bulb out of the soil or compost and then leave them alone, as they do not like disturbance. Dig them up only if they are becoming congested, when off-set bulbs can be split away and planted elsewhere.
Amaryllis belladonna, known as the Jersey lily, originates from South Africa and flowers in autumn before the leaves appear. The funnel-shaped, bright pink flowers are up to 10cm long and are lightly fragrant. To grow well, they need full sun and a sheltered position in a moist, but well-drained soil.
The new kids on the block are the x Amarines, hybrids created by crossing Amaryllis bellandonna and Nerine bowdenii. This combines the vigour of the Amaryllis with the hardiness of the Nerine and produces a plant with flowers that fall mid-way between both parents: smaller than Amaryllis and more trumpet-like than Nerine. There are many new forms being bred, mostly in the hardy Belladiva series, with huge flower heads in autumn. They need planting in a sunny, well-drained spot with the neck of the bulb out of the ground.
For more information or to purchase bulbs, see www.somethingforthegarden.co.uk
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