Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The Cape Crusaders ; South African Bulbs Are Colourful Stars of Autumn. Now Is the Time to Take Note of Your Favourites So You Can Create Your Own Vibrant Displays

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The Cape Crusaders ; South African Bulbs Are Colourful Stars of Autumn. Now Is the Time to Take Note of Your Favourites So You Can Create Your Own Vibrant Displays

Article excerpt

SHOTS of colour in the garden at this time of year are unexpected but hugely appreciated. Flashes of tree leaves still manage to provide occasional glimpses of colourful vestments but are fast shedding the last threads of their autumnal garb.

Travelling around over the past couple of months, you come across a few inspirational pictures with zingy colours and luxuriant flowers, and find the majority are provided by bulbs.

Naturally your first impulse is to go out and find some for your own plot, but most of them are difficult to come by as growing plants or dry bulbs at this time of year. You tell yourself you'll make a list but forget until the year after at the same time when you're once again struck by their beauty. We have a few of these in the garden here but we are determined to have others gracing it by this time next year.

Many of these late-flowering bulbs are South African. Some are nowhere to be seen during the summer as they make their flowers first in the autumn and foliage second, often in late autumn and winter.

Nerines fall into this category. They are related to lilies and in the main are pink, though that pink can vary from violent magenta to pale, pretty pink to coral and damson. But the majority are decidedly pink. The hardiest is nerine bowdenii.

Despite its exotic origins it is almost a cottage garden plant in some parts of Devon. The petals shimmer - all nerines have this quality. A pioneer of nerine breeding was a man called Terry Jones, who lived not many miles from us in a village called Zeal Monachorum. He was a brilliant plantsman and funny with it.

One of his early hybrids, 'Zeal Giant', has become popular - though not widespread. It has scintillating shocking pink flowers and, as its name suggests, is head and shoulders above your average nerine in height. Much more widely available, though by no means mundane, gladiolus callianthus - or as it used to be called acidanthera murielae - is one of the most elegant flowers in existence. It has little in common with the gladdies Dame Edna Everage throws like floral javelins to her audience.

From clumps of upright fresh green sword-like leaves rise tall straight stems with gracious pure white flowers marked with deep maroon at their centres. …

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