Bulbs for every season

Bulbs for every season and region

Life & Style
Naked ladies (Amaryllis), pokers and an unusual pink sea lavender, Limonium peregrinum, flowering in Hobart Botanic Gardens not long before lockdown.

Naked ladies (Amaryllis), pokers and an unusual pink sea lavender, Limonium peregrinum, flowering in Hobart Botanic Gardens not long before lockdown.

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Fiona Ogilvie's autumn spring bulb tips.

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There's far more to flowering bulbs than those glorious springs displays so loved by cool climate gardeners. There are bulbs for every season and for every region of NSW, with plenty of choice for sub-tropical gardens including crinums, pineapple lilies (Eucomis), hippies (Hippeastrums), pure white eucharis lilies and vivid scarlet Jacobean lilies (Sprekelia).

My Central Tablelands garden is far from the sub-tropics, indeed distinctly nippy as I write, but I have scented jonquils and sparkly white nerines in flower, my spring bulbs are safely underground and I'm now dreaming of bulbs to order for next summer.

The flowering jonquils are paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) from the Mediterranean region and are my first narcissus to flower, appearing regularly in early May and continuing for weeks. They were in the garden when we moved here and have reappeared every year without becoming in the least invasive.

As the garden grew and became shadier they began blooming later in winter, but quickly reverted to early May when I moved them to the sun. All NSW gardeners can grow paperwhites as, unlike most narcissus, they don't need a spell in the fridge to flower in warmer districts. They are obligingly quick: they jump into growth as soon as you plant them and flower after a month.

All NSW gardeners can grow paperwhites as, unlike most narcissus, they don't need a spell in the fridge to flower in warmer districts.

Narrow, needle like leaves reach knee height and above them a small cluster of heavily fragrant flowers sits atop each stem. The flowers last well indoors. White nerines (N. flexuosa alba) are also good cut flowers but have no scent, handy if scent makes you sneeze. Coming from South Africa they're a fabulous dry climate, hardy bulb but demand autumn rain to bring them into bloom.

Sadly, this year's March rain wasn't enough to satisfy my pink nerines (N. bowdenii): they are having a hissy fit and refusing to flower. No, I lie, I found a solitary bloom this morning, behind Sedum 'Autumn Joy' and in front of a low hedge of bright yellow winter jasmine in full flower, with which it clashed unattractively.

Winter jasmine normally flowers in August and the pink nerine was supposed to be a companion for the sedum, but that's gardening for you, nature always has the last word.

Looking ahead to summer bulbs, one of the brightest and best is the glamorous belladonna lily (Amaryllis belladonna), aka naked lady because her leaves die down before her flowering stems shoot from the ground.

Unfortunately, the original South African species is all too happy in Australia and has become an environmental weed in Victoria and SA. But birds don't understand state boundaries so stick to cultivars, like pink and white 'Elegant Lady' or pure white 'Hathor White' and to be safe, remove the flowers as they fade. I saw a clump of elegant ladies blooming in Hobart Botanic Gardens last February, alongside pokers (Kniphofia) and an unusual pink statice, Limonium peregrinum, which I much preferred to the bright purple L. perezii.

'Poco Sunset' is an easy, low growing kniphofia cultivar from Garden Express who also offer belladonna cultivars from October.

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