Gladiolus murielae (Acidanthera bicolor)

August this year in the UK Midlands has been almost tropical; energy sapping temperatures, steamy humidity and torrential downpowers of rain. Despite the heat it has been clear that the garden is now entering a new vibrant phase. A new combination of late summer flowers is beginning to emerge and many of the repeat flowering roses are now creating a second flush of colour.

In my opinion one of the most elegant mid-summer bulbs is Gladiolus murielae (which we have always known as Acidanthera). Growing to around 1 metre in height these corms produce a succession of flowers over a number of weeks. Each white, six petalled flower is presented on a delicate arching stem and has a purple throat in the centre. Unlike many gladioli which produce one dramatic show, Acidanthera flowers open one at a time. Each flower has a lovely scent which makes them ideal for including as a cut flower in table arrangements brought into the house.

Acidanthera originates from Eastern Africa from Ethiopia and Somalia to Tanzania and Malawi. It grows on grass and on damp hills at 1200-2500m. Here in Warwickshire it rarely survives the winter in the garden and so we plant fresh, new corms each year. They are not expensive to buy and we have found the best approach is to plant them in groups of 5-8 corms in a medium sized pot of compost and start them off in the greenhouse. When the weather warms up and we can see gaps in the borders we plant out the whole pot without separating or disturbing the corms.

The foliage is very well behaved growing up straight and true and they seem to need very little staking. They really are such a lovely addition to the late summer border and something that I would highly recommend.

Further Reading

“Bulb” by Anna Pavord (ISBN 978 1 84533 415 4)

Suppliers

J. Parkers (dutchbulbs.co.uk)

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Crinum x powelli ‘Album’

Every year we enjoy searching through the catalogues and are nearly always tempted to try something a little different that we have not grown before.  In March 2018 we bought three Crinum x powelli ‘Album’ bulbs to see if we could successfully grow these dramatic plants with their large white trumpet flowers.

Although they are classed as fully hardy we thought we would be cautious and plant them in pots at first.  This would allow us to move them into the polytunnel in winter to give them some additional protection.  Crinum bulbs are simply enormous and so we had to get hold of some suitably large terracotta pots. We planted the bulbs in a mix of ⅔ John Innes No 3 compost and ⅓ perlite. We used perlite (instead of grit) to add extra drainage but also to reduce the overall weight.

Crinum bulb with 2p piece for scale
Huge Crinum bulb with 2p piece for scale

The plants grew well in the first year producing a profusion of large strappy leaves but no flowers.  We were warned that we might need to be patient (something we find a bit difficult!) and allow them to settle in.  Last year however, in early August, we were rewarded with the most wonderful display of large white trumpet flowers.  We had up to eight flowers per stem, opening in succession, on tall study stems.  They looked wonderful amongst the dahlias and blue agapanthus.

Over winter we have been protecting the pots in our cold polytunnel and I came across them yesterday as I was moving a number of small fruit trees.  They look comfortably dormant at the moment but it struck me that it might be timely to read up on how to prepare them for the coming season.

Anna Pavord’s book ‘Bulb’¹ advises that in the wild Crinums grow on the banks of streams or along lake shores. They require full sun but also require moist but well drained, organic rich soil.  Bearing in mind that the books also indicate that they hate root disturbance I think that I will carefully scrap away the top layer of soil and and give them a top dressing of fresh compost ready for the new year.

As the plants grow to 36 inches in height I think I probably need to be better at feeding and watering them next year.  I must admit that once the summer is in full swing we don’t always feed plants as much as we probably should.  However, I think I must try harder if these Crinums are to have all they need to grow their large leaves, flower profusely and maintain the bulb for the following year.

These are such lovely plants and if you have the space I would certainly recommend that you give them a go.

P1030237 Crinum
Picture taken on 3 August

Further information

Family: Amaryllidaceae

Hybrid: Crinum x powellii is a hybrid cross between C. moorei and C. bulbispermum

Further reading

¹ “Bulb” by Anna Pavord (ISBN 978-1-84533-415-4)

 

 

 

 

 

Another six star plants for August

Last week’s ‘Six on Saturday’ was a bit challenging as I just couldn’t decide which six to feature!  So, this week I have come back with another six stars of the August garden.


One:  Dahlia ‘Apricot Desire’

There are so many dahlias to choose from in late summer but this variety, ‘Apricot Desire’, seems to have performed very well this year.  It is such a beautiful and well shaped bloom.  Generally the dahlias seem to have been later this year but the plants are still looking very good and the buds are forming well.

As the picture shows, it will not be long until the Asters begin to flower as well and we are certainly looking forward with anticipation to the potentially striking combination.

P1020037 Dahlia Apricot Desire


Two:  Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’

We have grown a number of varieties of Ageratum over the years and the F1 ‘Blue Horizon’ stands out as both an excellent cut flower and border plant.  It is relatively tall, has strong stems and seems to just flower and flower and flower with little attention.  The powder blue is also quite unusual and sits well with yellows, whites and pinks.  Ageratum ‘Blue Horizon’ is a plant that we grow without hesitation every year now.

P1020044 Ageratum Blue Horizon


Three: Chincherinchee

We grew this for the first time last year in large patio tubs and it performed wonderfully (see:  Chincherinchee (Ornithogalum thyrsoides) ).  We tried to overwinter the bulb with little success as they split into multiple tiny bulbules and presumably will take many years to grow big enough to flower effectively again.  As they are so cheap we bought another batch this year, started them in large pots and then planted out into the flower garden.

Once again they have grown into excellent plants and are producing good, strong stems (c. 18 inches) topped with these charming white flowers.  What I particularly like is that the don’t need any staking.  The second flush of flowers is beginning to develop now and they will probably carry on flowering until the first frosts.

P1020041 Chincherinchee


Four:  Phlox (probably ‘Bright Eyes’)

The Phlox in our garden never seem to be as big and lush as they are in other peoples’ gardens but they are such a lovely, fragrant flower that we continue to try year after year to develop and improve them.  They seem to thrive best in parts of the garden where there is continual moisture in the soil throughout the year.  Although we have some wonderful white Phlox in full sun they do need continual water to stop them flopping at the first sign of any drought.

P1020048 Phlox Bright Eyes


Five:  Aster × frikartii ‘Mönch’

Aster ‘Mönch’ comes into flower a few weeks earlier than many of the other ‘September flowers’ (see: Michaelmas daisies in the autumn sunshine ).  It is a charming plant with a loose airy habit and makes a wonderful cut flower. It is a perfect flower for many of our country style wedding bouquets.

P1020049 Aster Monch


Six:  Rose ‘Prince Jardinier’

This is one of the new roses that we have planted in the redesigned cut flower garden (see: New additions to our garden of Roses ).  Many have been repeat flowering but this variety just continues to produce these delicate light blooms with a darker pink centre.  Exquisite.

P1020047 Prince Jardinier


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.