Nerines – October Jewels.

Nerine sarniensis

Nerine sarniensis

I expect most people know the famous tale of how Nerine sarniensis, The Guernsey Lily came to Guernsey.  It is probably apocryphal but it makes a romantic story. Bulbs were supposed to have been washed up onto the sandy shores of Guernsey and taken root after the ship carrying them sunk in 1659. However they arrived there from their native South Africa, they have been grown in Guernsey since the seventeenth century. Hybridisers have been busy and they come in the most exquisite colours.  But they are not hardy.  During their growing period, October until May they need to be kept between 9 and 13 degrees Centigrade.  They get new leaves in winter and frost kills them. They need a good, free circulation of air because they are mountain plants. The one in my picture has finished flowering now and is going to be a worry to me for the rest of the winter. I would love more but I really haven’t got the facilities to look after them.

But never mind, I have other nerines which are looking wonderful now and which are much easier to care for.
I keep them in pots because I am not sure that they are all completely hardy, although the pots live in an unheated greenhouse in the winter. I have lost the lovely white Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba’ before so I won’t chance leaving her outside again.

Nerine bowdenii 'Alba'.

Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba’.

I love the little striped Nerine which I bought this year. It is labelled ‘Nerine alba with a Pink Flush’. I think it deserves a better name than that, it is so pretty.

I would not grow Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’ outside because it is a hybrid between bowdenii and sarniensis, so I don’t believe it is hardy. I wouldn’t like to risk it anyway. I have had it for years and it has only now managed three flower spikes. But it is so beautiful. The flowers are enormous and are a deep cerise pink.
I think it looks lovely sitting next to the hardy Begonia ‘Silver Splendor’ whose flowers are a perfect match.
A friend gave me Nerine undulata about 17 years ago. when I believe it was called Nerine crispa. He told me that it was hardy and I had it in the garden for a few years. But I have moved about over the last few years and so it has lived in a pot and it is obviously happy. Nerines love it when their bulbs are really congested. I keep thinking I should split it up, especially as friends are always begging me for bits, but it looks so wonderful I can’t bear to divide it.  I have counted and there are 38 flower spikes.(Don’t all gardeners count their flowers?) The flowers of Nerine undulata are pale pink and delicate , like spidery ribbons.

Nerine undulata.

Nerine undulata.

I love to keep all these beautiful nerines in pots on a table outside my kitchen window so that they are always in view.  They will stay here until frost is threatened and then they will go into the greenhouse.
Outside in the garden Nerine bowdenii grows happily and increases every year. It is quite hardy. I grow this clump with the deep pink, double Gypsophila paniculata ‘Flamingo’.
As they increase so rapidly I have clumps all over the garden. Some people have asked me how I get them to flower. They are easy as long as you remember that they need full sun to bake their bulbs. They prefer a light soil and they must not be planted too deeply. They like the tips of their bulbs just above soil level. Although they need to be baked by the sun they must have plenty of water from July onwards. I think the watering is the key to getting lots of flowers.
The name ‘Nerine‘ is supposed to come from the Greek word ‘Nereis’ which means sea-nymph. What a beautiful name for such an exquisite flower. Incidentally, even though they are called Guernsey lilies, they are not lilies at all. They belong to the Amaryllidaceae family.
I have just a few but there are so many more. I wonder which ones you grow?  If you don’t grow any, put them to the top of your wish list for next year. You know you really need nerines, we all do. If you haven’t got a greenhouse then plant some Nerine bowdenii in your sunniest spot.

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54 Responses to Nerines – October Jewels.

  1. AnnetteM says:

    What a lovely selection of Nerines. I have only really come across Bowdenii before. There is a wonderful patch of them flowering nearly at the moment. I love the red ones and the white ones too but sadly don’t have a greenhouse to overwinter them.

  2. snowbird says:

    I am converted! I don’t have any but shall get some now, you are right, they are all beautiful!!! And yes, of course we count our flowers….AND our fruit!xxx

    • Chloris says:

      I am so glad that you are converted. Who could resist them?
      You are right I think we all count our flowers and fruit. I’ m not sure why we have this strange compulsion.

  3. Meriel Murdock, Co. Wicklow, Ireland says:

    I especially love the Bernie undulata. Will have to look out for that one.

  4. Tina says:

    Those nerine–so beautiful Chloris. Do you remember when you noted the similarity between your Nerine sarniensis and my Lycoris radiata in a recent post of mine? An older, common name for our “Spider Lily” is Guernsey Lily. Funny. I noticed that the L. radiata that is grown in the southeastern U.S. is originally from the Far East, while your N. sarniensis comes from South Africa. Lovely post!

    • Chloris says:

      They are very similar aren’t they? Nerines have been grown in Guernsey for centuries although they come from South Africa. The word ‘ sarniensis’ is Latin for ‘ from Guernsey’.

  5. Jane Strong says:

    Oh, my goodness! This is such a beautiful posting. I had no idea about the story of the Guernsey lily nor about all the colors. The first picture of the scarlet is astonishing; never seen anything like it here. You must have the perfect climate for them or take care of them particularly well. Opened my eyes to more beautiful flowers, you have.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Jane. We haven’ t got the climate for the tender ones, they have to live in the greenhouse in winter, which is a bit of a bother but worth it because they are so beautiful.

  6. Julie says:

    Beautiful, I have one eye on Strictly and one eye on your Nerines, perfect combination, glamorous, spangly and a little romantic. I did not know the story and as always I love the extra information you share.

  7. Anna says:

    A new to me story too Chloris. I haven’t grown nerines but can quite understand the attraction 🙂

  8. Julie says:

    I have never heard that story before so enjoyed your little tale Chloris! I have grown a few nerines for the first time this year – they are just coming into flower.

  9. rusty duck says:

    I’ve only ever grown Nerine bowdenii. I can see that my horizons need expanding.

  10. Cathy says:

    Stunning, Chloris, as you said they were before you posted this – I couldn’t say which was my favourite and I don’t suppose you could either. It was Nerine bowdeni and N b ‘Isabel’ that I planted this spring – perhaps I might have flowers next year…

    • Chloris says:

      I love them all. I have Isobel which is a lovely bright pink and also Stephanie which is the palest shell pink. Bob Brown of Cotswold Garden Flowers Nursery has an amazingly long list of nerines. I’ m like you with Hamamelis, I want all of them really.

      • Cathy says:

        I suppose like snowdrops one of the attractions is the seasonality – it might be harder to focus on one species when there were lots of others flowering at the same time… It would be wise to make sure my ordinary nerines are flowering before I think about any specials though…;)

  11. bittster says:

    Oh wow, those really are something, the colors, the shapes, the number of blooms, it’s quite a show to be proud of and I’m glad you shared it.
    I remember hearing the guernsey lily story years ago and thought it was the most amazing plant…. Until I found out it wasn’t remotely hardy here or easily found… So ended my quest 😦
    I really do love them all together. You have a fantastic view from your kitchen, I hope your not always busy while you’re doing your admiring!

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Frank. They are lovely and a special delight so late in the year. I suppose the winters there are too cold although Nerine bowdenii always survives the winter here. I have never known it killed by the cold.

  12. pbmgarden says:

    These are so lovely. I don’t know of them growing around here but will be on the lookout.

  13. I love the deep pink one but they’re all beautiful. I don’t see the bulbs here often so perhaps I need to resort to mail order to acquire some. You’ve definitely peaked my interest. My western garden guide says that N. bowdenii, N. filifolia, N. masoniorum and N. sarniensis will grow here, although they require partial shade during our hot summers.

  14. One of our neighbors has an amazing clump of cerise nerines in her back garden, they are a blaze of colour, but at this time of year I think I prefer the white ones.

    • Chloris says:

      Maybe you could beg on or two bulbs from your neighbour? If they grow well next door you should be able to grow them too.
      The white ones are such a pure, persil white, they are gorgeous.

  15. Cathy says:

    They really are pretty Chloris. All those pinks and violets must be real joy to look out at from the house so late in the year. I haven’t seen them grown here, so will have to keep my eyes open for them.

  16. Chloris says:

    I should have thought you could grow them well in your garden. You get plenty of sun to bake the bulbs. Maybe you could get some by mail order.

  17. croftgarden says:

    A lovely collection and, as always, beautifully grown. I’ve not grown Nerines for many years but I’m very tempted to do so. I’m sure there is room for just a few more pots somewhere.

  18. Chloris says:

    Yes do grow some. You won’ t regret it. What else in the garden can give you so much pleasure at this time of the year?

  19. Fantastic display, I particularly like the undulata and the pretty pink striped one. Beautiful.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you. I love the undulat too. Mind you it has taken many years to build up such a lovely display. They do seem to like being kept in a pot and having their bulbs constricted.

  20. Flighty says:

    A most enjoyable post and lovely pictures. Nerines are such wonderful, rather exotic plants.
    I have some pink bowdenii in a pot that I was given some years ago which usually flower around about now. If I grew more it would be some white ones. xx

  21. Debra says:

    I am a bulb kind of person. I love flashy flowers and if they are pink and all massed together — well that makes them even better. These flowers are new to me. Thanks for sharing them. (And that begonia is lovely!)

    • Chloris says:

      They certainly make a great show at this time of the year. If you can get hold of any they do very well in a pot.

      • Debra says:

        Thanks for the introduction. I looked it up and they ought to be perfectly hardy here but I think I will try them in a pot to keep the roots cramped as you suggest.

  22. Christina says:

    They are indeed gems! I was given some when I hosted San Fiacre, but they aren’t flowering and I think it might be difficult to give them the required amount of water from July as you describe. Perhaps if I kept them in pots too it would be easier, I’ll try with those I was given.

  23. Annette says:

    Just adorable, Chloris, especially so many of them…put my humble lot to shame. They have to be pink and white though for me, I don’t fancy the orangey ones. What a great idea to combine them with delicate Gypsophila. I think they did a feature on them in The Garden or Gardens Illustrated recently – did you see it too?

    • Chloris says:

      They are gorgeous. I wish I could grow more Nerine sarniensis because they come in such gorgeous colours.
      I take Gardens Illustrated but I have a pile of gardening magazines waiting to be read and I haven’ t seen it yet.I will go and find it, thank you.

  24. Pingback: Lovely Blog award | roasademure

  25. Oh my goodness, they’re beautiful Chloris! They remind me of Lycoris Squamigera, Surprise Lilies, which I have in my garden. You have a great collection! Thanks for sharing!

  26. Chloris says:

    Thank you Beth. Actually you are right, Nerine sarniensis looks very similar to Lycoris.

  27. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Exquisite and exotic-looking blooms! I certainly will take your advice and move them to the top of my list for next year! Thank you for such lovely images and information!

    • Chloris says:

      I don’ t know how easy they are to find over there but they are well worth seeking out. The ones that are not quite hardy would be ideal for your nice new greenhouse.

  28. Wow! These are beautiful. I have been trying to get nerine bowdenii established here, although I am not sure that a windy hillside in Wales is where they want to be. I have half a dozen blooms this year on a sunny, sheltered bank with thin, dry soil. You are making me wonder whether I should be using containers more and extending my range!

  29. How lucky you are to grow this beautiful genus of plants. I don’t believe I have ever seen them except for in your pictures.

  30. Chloris says:

    Well, they are something to look out for. They would be appreciated at any time of the year, but they are extra special now as they are in bloom when everything else is winding down.

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