Sea Nymphs in the Greenhouse.

I know this  title sounds whimsical but the word ‘nerine’ is Greek and it means ‘nereid‘ which is a sea nymph. I think it is much prettier than the original name, ‘Imhofia’. Although they have nothing to do with the sea, William Herbert who first realised that they are not actually lilies, called them this because of the story of a ship carrying boxes of them to Holland, which  was wrecked in the seventeenth century. Bulbs washed ashore on Guernsey and established themselves there; or so the story goes, perhaps you have heard it, but it is probably apocryphal. In fact nerines were grown in England  in the garden of the Cromwellian, General John Lambert in the 1650s; he acquired them from a nursery in France. At the time of the Restoration he was exiled to Guernsey and it is highly likely that he took his precious nerines with him. It was originally thought that nerines come from Japan, but in fact they all originate in South Africa. However they got there, nerines established themselves on the sand dunes of Guernsey. And they are still grown there for the flower trade . The exquisite, but tender Nerine sarniensis takes its name from the Latin name for Guernsey, Sarnia.

Nerine sarniensis

Nerine sarniensis

The flowers of Nerine sarniensis are the brightest red and in a good light they look as if they have been sprinkled with gold dust. This is a winter growing nerine , and as its leaves grow over winter it is not hardy and has to be kept in the greenhouse. It has been crossed with the hardy Nerine bowdenii to create some beautiful hybrids which are tender too, but worth growing in the greenhouse because they are so beautiful. Nerine sarniensis flowers quite early for me and has finished now. But in full bloom I have the superb Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’. This is well named because the flowers are huge and dark pink. Here it is growing in front of the ordinary Nerine bowdenii, so you can see the difference. To the left is the delicate Nerine undulata.


And here is a close up of gorgeous ‘Zeal Giant’. As you can see there is a central stripe on the petals which is delicately shaded lilac.

Nerine 'Zeal Giant'

Nerine ‘Zeal Giant’

Another superb Bowdenii x sarniensis cross is the dark flowered Nerine ‘Mr. John’. It has a purple stripe on its dark pink petals. I have seen it listed as bowdenii, but I think this is wrong as it is not hardy.

Nerine 'Mr. John'

Nerine ‘Mr. John’

‘Mr. John’ is just going over, but you can see what I mean about the petals shimmering with  gold dust on the next close up.

Nerine 'Mr. John'

Nerine ‘Mr. John’

Most of the bowdenii hybrids are reasonably hardy but I have found that the white ones can’t take much frost. I have three. The first to flower is Nerine bowdenii ‘Ella K’.

Nerine bowdenii 'Ella K'

Nerine bowdenii ‘Ella K’

‘Ella K’ is finishing now but Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba’ has just come into bloom. I think the flowers of this one are a purer white. They can be tinged with pink though, so it is best to buy it in flower.

Nerine bowdenii 'Alba'

Nerine bowdenii ‘Alba’

My third white nerine is still in bud. It is a new one that I bought because it is supposed to be stronger, healthier  and whiter than other white ones which can suffer from virus. It is called Nerine bowdenii ‘Blanca Perla’.

The wonderful thing about nerines is the fact that some of them start flowering at the end of September and if you have several varieties you can have them in bloom until the end of  dreary November. In full bloom now is one of my favourites, it is the exquisite Nerine undulata with its delicate spidery, pale pink flowers. I was given it by a friend years ago and told that it is hardy. It did live outside for a few years, but when I moved I dug it up and put it into a pot where it has grown happily for eleven years now. Nerines are great for growing in a pot because they flower well when the bulbs are overcrowded. Now I don’t want to risk this beauty outside. It has 39 blooms this year. My gardening friends keep suggesting that it is time that I repot it and share a few bulbs around. Nope. Sorry, it’s not going to happen.

Nerine undulata

Nerine undulata

Nerine undulata

Nerine undulata

My last tender nerine is actually a cross between nerine and amaryllis. No, I don’t mean the giraffe-stalked hippeastrums which are sold at Christmas as pot plants.Those are not amaryllis at all. Amaryllis can live outside in a sunny spot. I thought I had lost mine but it is fine, it flowered in September.



You can see where the amarine gets its huge flowers from. I am not going to risk my beautiful Amarine  outside even  in a sunny spot. It has massive flowers with a distinct stripe on them.

Amarine beladiva 'Aphrodite'

Amarine beladiva ‘Aphrodite’

 Nerine bowdenii is hardy in a sun baked position and does not need to be kept in the green house. The bulbs need to be planted with the top of their noses above ground. They prefer a sunny spot, preferably in a sandy soil. They don’t like competition for space. Although they like to be baked they do need watering from July onwards to make them flower well. I have ordinary Nerine bowdenii in the garden. They came from my father’s garden where they grew well and multiplied at an astonishing rate as they do here.

Nerine bowdenii

Nerine bowdenii

I have several named varieties which don’t seem much different to me. I bought ‘Marjorie’ from Plant Heritage because our Chairman, Jim Marshall introduced and named it after his late wife. It was a seedling selected at Edinburgh Botanical Garden. With all due respect to Jim, it looks very much like the other bowdenii to me.

Nerine bowdenii 'Marjorie'

Nerine bowdenii ‘Marjorie’

I also have Nerine ‘Pink Triumph which is very similar .

Nerine 'Pink Triumph'

Nerine ‘Pink Triumph’

I have two soft pale pink nerines which I think are prettier than the usual sugary pink ones. One is Nerine bowdenii ‘Pink Surprise’ which blooms at the end of September.

Nerine 'Pink Surprise'

Nerine ‘Pink Surprise’

The other is the shell pink Nerine bowdenii ”Stefanie’.

Nerine bowdenii 'Stefanie'

Nerine bowdenii ‘Stefanie’

Nerine bowdenii ‘Isabel’ is a lovely dark one.

Nerine 'Isobel'

Nerine ‘Isobel’

Whilst it is great to have hardy nerines in the garden, I love going into the greenhouse on a dreary November day and finding it full of jewels. Today, it has rained all day and hardly got light. A few days ago we had awful news which made us feel that the world is falling into barbarity. When the morally bankrupt take over power it is time to be very frightened. Time to hide in the greenhouse.



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54 Responses to Sea Nymphs in the Greenhouse.

  1. Ed Morrow says:

    Interesting, informative, and slightly envy provoking. The photographs are are also a delight. As for hiding in the greenhouse, it may provide some solace, but this is precisely the time not to hide or to be silent.

  2. pbmgarden says:

    In this extremely sad time, thanks for the focus on these beautiful things. Always enjoy seeing your nerines and they’re more spectacular than ever.

  3. Liz, wow! I loved the Nerines, but i think I loved your last statement more. Please realize there are Americans (most of us) appalled by this election. And embarrassed and frightened. I am most fearful for my nephews in the Armed Forces followed by the Healthcare situation. May I bring my greyhounds and husband to live in your greenhouse until 2020?
    Maybe not, interestingly the Amarine look strikingly like what we in the Deep South call Milk and Wine LIlies, which is considered a type of Crinum.
    You have inspired me to see if I can find some Nerine to grow here. I have never seen any but that really doesn’t mean they aren’t around.

    • Chloris says:

      Of course I know that most decent Americans are appalled. You are welcome to come and live in my greenhouse with your husband and 2 greyhounds dear Amy, although it may be a bit of a squash. But it’ s not much better here, don’ t forget we have had Brexit this year; a victory for xenophobia and racial hatred. Brexit voters say it is a victory for patriotism but as Samuel Johnson said: ‘ Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel’. So far I have not heard of plans to build a wall to keep the Welsh out ( and make them pay for it) or to rebuild Hadrian’ s Wall. But that’ s probably because they are too busy keeping everyone else out. The world has become more dangerous this year and much nastier.
      But we still have our gardens and I have my lovely nerines. You could grow them the beautiful sarniensis hybrids outside in Florida as long as you water them in late summer., Lucky you, do try and find some.

      • I agree and at this point should probably stop grieving. I have never been upset by a presidential election prior to this debacle. I think many of the Welsh are here! No walls needed. The Nerines you recommended are available here but not til January, for spring planting so I hope I remember to go back and order some – I have run irrigation properly into the perennial beds and will continue that work this winter. Carry on, this too shall pass.

  4. rusty duck says:

    Hiding in the greenhouse sounds like a good idea to me. And who can blame you with those gorgeous blooms.

  5. mrsdaffodil says:

    What a great post! The Nerines have only just started to become more widely available here. They are gorgeous and seem to do well in our climate (Victoria, British Columbia). Apocryphal or not, the shipwrecked Nerines make a wonderful story.

    • Chloris says:

      Do you get much frost? I would love to be able to grow Nerine sarniensis outside.

      • mrsdaffodil says:

        We do get frost and even snow sometimes, but the last few winters have been mild. Gardeners here are doing a lot of hardiness zone pushing, myself included, but it’s risky. It’s always possible we’ll get two feet of snow lasting two weeks. Yikes! I looked up Nerine sarniensis – it’s very showy.

  6. Cathy says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed looking at all those beautiful flowers Chloris. So many! I don’t have a greenhouse, but if I did I would defintiely try growing some of these! Lovely! Thanks for sharing!

    • Chloris says:

      Have you tried Nerine bowdenii outside? It is hardy in a sheltered postion.

      • Cathy says:

        It does occasionally get very very cold here, and permafrost is not uncommon, so I have got accustomed to avoiding anything that needs cosseting! One day I will have my greenhouse.., patience is a virtue! 😉

  7. Beautiful!! These would die in a hot minute in our winters. I’ve never even seen them here. But if I could grow them, I would. 🙂

  8. Lavinia Ross says:

    The nerines are so beautiful! A delightful set of photos, Chloris. 🙂

  9. Kris P says:

    That Amarine is a gorgeous thing! Your post was a timely reminder. Every year I kick myself because I haven’t managed to find any of these bulbs locally and every year I decide I should hunt a supply down on-line – and then I don’t. In response to your post, I just got my act together and ordered some. They won’t be delivered until February but at least I shall have them next year. Interestingly, I couldn’t find a US supplier who offered any choices other than “red” or “pink.” No named varieties to be found.

    • Chloris says:

      So glad you have found some Kris. Don’ t be disappointed if they don’ t bloom the first year. They often take a year to settle down but after that they will spread each year and give you so much pleasure.

  10. Pauline says:

    Beautiful flowers and beautiful photos! I only have Nerine bowdenii maybe I should buy more for the conservatory. I agree, the greenhouse is the best place to be with the world in the state it is.

    • Chloris says:

      They would be lovely to enjoy in the conservatory. You could keep them outside in the summer and then bring them in to enjoy in October and November. Cotswold Garden Flowers have a wonderful range of them.

  11. What a beautiful sanctuary you have in your nerine filled greenhouse. I hadn’t noticed the gold sheen before – thank you for pointing it out.

  12. Wow Chloris I had no idea you had so many of these. An amazing collection. I actually find them garish outside when all else is golden or brown, those precious ones in the greenhouse sound a perfect solution (and place to hide from world news). Enjoy your Sunday

  13. Christina says:

    I so enjoyed your enthusiasm for the Nerines and yours are all beautiful. I put some into the garden in spring but reading that they need water from July explains why I haven’t had any flowers. I can see why you don’t want to divide your pot full of blooms. How big is the pot to have so many stems?

  14. I am glad that you were cheered by your nerines, I certain have been! That N. undulata is absolutely incredible. Straight onto the Lust List. 🙂

  15. Flighty says:

    Good post and wonderful pictures. Nerines are lovely flowers, and would be something I’d grow if I had a garden. xx

  16. bittster says:

    Beautiful flowers for such a dreary time of year… although here our November has been quite warm and sunny so far. I think I would use the word exquisite to describe undulate, it is quite a amazing flower and to see them all together is something special. I don’t blame your friends for dropping pointed hints.
    Morally bankrupt and proud of it is one thing, holding the nuclear codes when you can’t even handle a twitter account responsibly is chilling.

  17. These are wonderful. We don’t grow them here. I am glad they are called Nerines now and not Imhofias. A nerine sounds like a succulent fruit from a warm climate, an Imhofia sounds like some kind of blunt weapon. In any case, N. undulata is simply superb!

    • Chloris says:

      I agree Imhofia sounds horrible, to my ears it sounds like a nasty and embarrassing disease. What a pity you don’ t have nerines there. Seek them out Jason, they are gorgeous, you need some.

  18. Bodger says:

    Thanks for this Chloris. I’m sick with envy at your beautiful Nerines, betokening a loving care which is beyond me. One thing I love about gardening is that it transcends borders of race and gender. The only thing that holds us back is the frost line and your pink lovelies show that we can overcome anything, given a little effort.

    • Chloris says:

      In fact I ignore my nerines all summer and only start watering them in late July. They are really undemanding and bloom better when potbound. They don’ t even have much heat. I read that they must be kept above 7 degrees but they don’ t get that sort of mollycoddling here. When it gets very cold they get a horticultural fleece blanket. Maybe I will get caught out if we get a really cold winter but so far I haven’ t lost any. Oh dear, I shouldn’ t have said that, Nemesis might be listening.

  19. Sam says:

    Wow, what a collection. I imagine your greenhouse is indeed a sanctuary.

  20. Brian Skeys says:

    There use to be a national collection of Nerines in the next village, which sadly I didn’t get to see before it was sold. I have bowdenii from my great aunts garden, which are a pleasure to see. You have a envious collection Chloris.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Brian, I would love to have seen the national collection, I wonder who holds it now. There are so many beautiful hybrids that you could only ever have a fraction of them. And they are all gorgeous.

  21. Cathy says:

    I am sure everyone who read this post was doing so with wide eyes and an open mouth – stunning! I can see you are going to have a very full greenhouse soon, so your new project must surely be an endless greenhouse that can cope with innumerable American refugees plus a motley collection of UK ones too… 😉

    • Chloris says:

      In fact I have 2 full greenhouses, but no, that is not my project this time. Mind you the large cedar wood greenhouse is very old. It must have been beautiful once but it is rotten now and I don’ t think it will last much longer. It would be prohibitively expensive to replace it with another cedarwood one of the same size. I hope it will hang on a bit longer but it is looking awful.

      • Cathy says:

        There was a 14 x 8 ft cedar greenhouse here when we came, not in bad condition but in an increasingly shady spot. We managed to sell it and bought the smaller one for the ‘top’ of the garden instead – the sitooterie is built on the site of the original. In hindsight we could have done with a greenhouse larger than 6×8 but I didn’t know then how much seed sowing and cutting taking I was going to be doing!

  22. The Nerines are beautiful! They are so similar to the Surprise Lilies (Lycoris) I have here in my garden. They’re dramatic, graceful, and enchanting all at the same time.

  23. Anna says:

    Oh what an informative and interesting post Chloris. I was completely unaware that there was a red nerine. I’ve never grown them and feel that I’m definitely missing out. Is there room in that greenhouse for blogging friends too?

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Anna.The red Nerine sarniensis is so beautiful but definitely not hardy.
      Oh yes, everyone is welcome in my greenhouse, although I have to admit it has seen better days. Once, many years ago it must have been lovely, it is cedar wood. But now it is on its last legs and held up by will power only.

  24. Wow, that’s a fantastic collection and so cheering for this time of year. What a sanctuary must be. I bought an Ella K and an undulata, but neither did anything for me this year on the floor of the greenhouse. I need to make a shelf I think.

  25. Chloris says:

    Nerines seem to take a year to settle down before they bloom so maybe next year you will have more luck. And yes, they need sun, so a shelf would be a good idea.

  26. snowbird says:

    The world is certainly a much scarier place now, I still cannot believe it!!! How can such a monster become President??? Still, looking at this fabulous collection took my mind of such things, what delights!xxx

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