Bed in your sum­mer gar­den now to reap max­i­mum ben­e­fits from June un­til au­tumn

Gloucestershire Echo - - YOUR GARDEN - With Diarmuid Gavin

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]­ View na­tional col­lec­tion by ap­point­ment only.

Sym­bol of friend­ship: Pe­ru­vian lily

Credit: postalplan­

Stun­ning: Apollo (above), which grows to a me­tre tall, and richly hued Al­stroe­me­ria In­dian Sum­mer (be­low)

Vi­brant: Bo­nanza Credit: postalplan­

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