PLANT AN INCAS’ TRAIL
Bed in your summer garden now to reap maximum benefits from June until autumn
If you want lots of flowers all summer long, alstroemeria should be on your planting list this spring. Too often seen wilting in cellophane on the forecourt of a garage, the Peruvian lily should not be overlooked. It will contentedly flower from June through to autumn and is relatively low maintenance. The florists’ favourite doesn’t have any scent, but makes up for that with exotic-looking flowers that will last up to two weeks in a vase. Its leaves are also a curiosity, twisting themselves as they grow so they end up upside down. As a symbol of friendship and prosperity, a bunch of these from your garden will always make a lovely gift for friends. Also known as lily of the Incas, the trumpet flowers are quite similar to lilies, with a satiny feel to them. Unlike lilies, however, they aren’t bulbs but fleshy rooted herbaceous perennials which form clumps that spread, sometimes vigorously. So allow a couple of feet for them to spread or grow in pots if space is limited. This South American native prefers a sunny sheltered site with good drainage so that the roots don’t rot in rain-sodden soil in our wet winters. New varieties are hardy to around -5˚C which means they are suitable for many regions, though they will suffer in a very harsh winter. Viv Marsh has been growing alstroemeria in his nursery in Shropshire for the past 30 years and holds the national collection of this genus. He advises applying a thick duvet of tree bark around your plants in autumn – up to 8ins thick. After a couple of years, the roots will have penetrated into the earth beyond the frost zone so won’t require such mulching permanently. He strongly advocates against buying and planting bare root alstroemeria in autumn as he finds there is a high mortality rate from bacterial and fungal diseases. So your best bet is to buy well-established potted plants for spring planting. There’s a wonderful variety to choose from. Not only do they come in an array of colours from yellow, orange, apricot, pink, red, purple and white, but with a variety of streaking and speckling on their throats. You also need to take into consideration their height – ranging from dwarf to a metre – and some of the taller ones may need staking. The best known white variety is Apollo, a metre high with bunches of white flowers with a yellow throat. This has sturdy stems so you might get away without staking.
Also tall and white, but with a delicate pink flush at its centre is ‘Blushing Bride.’ Both would be beautiful paired with ‘Bonanza,’ with vibrant rich pink petals. ‘Indian Summer’ is a cheerful orange and red with attractive bronze foliage growing to around 60cm. To fill small pots and containers, dwarf varieties, such as ‘Princess Lilian,’ a beautiful lavender lilac, will stay compact at 20cm in height. During the growing season, treat them to a monthly liquid feed high in potash to encourage flower development. If you are cutting for indoor use, don’t cut the flower stem, tug it gently from the base. This action helps stimulate further flower stems. You can propagate either by seed, which can be a frustrating process as germination can be poor, or lift and divide in spring, but be careful as the roots are quite brittle. For further information or to purchase from Viv, phone 01939 291475 or email [email protected]ts.co.uk. View national collection by appointment only.
Symbol of friendship: Peruvian lily
Stunning: Apollo (above), which grows to a metre tall, and richly hued Alstroemeria Indian Summer (below)
Vibrant: Bonanza Credit: postalplants.co.uk