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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.

Byline: GARDENS With Carol Klein of TV's Gardeners' World

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 pione er of nerine breeding was a man called Terr T y 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 EverE age 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.

Each flower has a long corolla tube suggesting it might be pollinated by an insect with a long proboscis. This theory is reinforced by the fact that the flowers have a hauntingly intense perfume at night - a sure sign it is moths that are attracted to the flowers.

One group of South African bulbs go by the generic name of pineapple lilies because at the summit of their spikes of clustered flowers they all have a tuft of leaves - just like a pineapple. Some have bizarre a green flowers, others maroon. One of the most outstanding is Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy', again raised or selected by Terr T y Jones. Its flower spikes don't appear until late summer but the fully-developed flowers go on looking good right through until the frosts. With a bit of luck their seed may ripen and you can raise your own seedlings.

We did this one year and raised a batch of seedlings which eventually turned themselves into bulbs. They all had dark crimson foliage and flowers to match.

Hesperantha coccinea 'Jennifer'. Not long ago this was called schizostylis but the botanists have changed its name. It doesn't know and its flowers are beautiful whatever its called. It can be brilliant red, as in hesperantha coccinea 'Major', or a range of shades of pink.

To my mind the b T est of these are h.c. 'Jennifer' with large deep pink flowers and h.c. 'Pink Princess' with pretty flowers of palest pink.

These plants love lots of moisture during the summer but need reasonable drainage in the winter. Hedychiums 'd Tara T 'andh. gardnerianum. Ornamental gingers make a glorious finale in the garden and though they have a reputation for being tender, most will survive in the ground over winter providing their rhizomes are covered with a good depth of soil to prevent their freezing.

H. gardnerianum probably has the sweetest scent, H.T. ara is one of the T most spectacular with large heads of pale orange flowers with protruding red stigmas. Which look a bit like they're sticking out their tongues.


Hedychiums 'Tara'
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 21, 2015
Previous Article:ask Carol.
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