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November 6, 2011

Guernsey Lily or Nerine? Autumn's Floral Treat


THE RARE GUERSEY LILY BLOOMS UNDER GLASS IN AUTUMN. THESE CHOICE AND HARD TO FIND RELATIVES OF THE AMARYLLIS GROWS IN MUCH THE SAME WAY, WITH HALF THE BULB OUT OF THE SOIL, AND HALF BURIED. THEY SLEEP FOR HALF THE YEAR, ONCE THE FOLIAGE DIES IN SPRING.
I almost gave my Nerine collection away this year ( I almost gave it aways last year too!). Why? Well, these precious bulbs which many people find challenging to grow and bloom, seem to do well for me, and not that that is any reason for me to donate or sell them, but frankly, they take up alot of room, and room is precious when one has limited space. Once they bloom, I move the, up to a higher bench and pretty much forget about them for the rest of their growing season, so it is surprising that they do so well given that I really don't fuss over them.

THIS YEAR, I HAVE THE UN-HEARD OF LUCK OF GETTING 2, 3 AND SOMETIMES 4 FLOWERING STEMS PER POT. NERINE SARNIENSIS  ' BLANCHE FLEUR'
 I know that I write about Nerine sarniensis each and every autumn, but here I go again, just in case you missed any of my other posts about this Amaryllis relative. Nerine sarniensis have a legend that Hollywood will surely someday make a movie about.

There exists this urban legend about the notorious Guernsey Lil y- how on a stormy night in the mid 1800's, a ship became lost in a terrible storm. It was sailing back to England from a collecting trip to the Cape of South Africa. After the ship sunk, the only survivors were a few crates of Nerine sarniensis bulbs which washed up on the shores of the Isle of Guernsey, where the 'Lily', so named, became naturalized.
'AMSHCEL', A SMOKY PURPLE COLOR THAT SEEMS TO CHANGE TINTS THROUGHOUT THE DAY.
The legend only gets better. In the early 20th Century, the species was collected and bred into it's current glory by Lionel de Rothchild ( clearly, wine was not enough). His  breeding program was then continued when the collection was split and was taken forward by one Sir Peter Smithers, then the Secretary General of the European Union in Strasbourg, ( where I received many of my bulbs from while in Switzerland 10 years ago). The late Sir Peter Smithers was a fascinating man in his own right, and at one time, rumored to be involved in the creation/inspiration for the character of James Bond ( later denied), but still,  good story!  He was very good friends with Ian Fleming, and although Mr. Fleming' biographers never found any proof of Peter Smithers being an influence, the New York Times still refereed to him as a 'spy with a green thumb'.

The Rothchild's  name has returned to the small work of Nerine sarniensis, and the collection now referred to as Exbury/Vivo Nerines are available for shipment worldwide every late summer and early autumn ( there are few places where one can fine a Nerine sarniensis, especially in the US).  Check out their site, and tell Nicholas de Rothchild ( Nick) that I sent you.
'KEN SCOTT', A STRIPED BI-COLOR FORM
There are a number of species of Nerine, but the Nerine sarniensis and those sometimes crossed with Nerine bowdenii are the ones that captivate growers and collectors alike. The florist Nerine is different that N. sarniensis, commercially grown in large numbers in Holland, it is smaller and  less colorful than the larger N. sarniensis. There are a few important collections that continue to pass hands today, the first two are in England ( the Rothchild Estate, that was able to continue much of the breeding efforts of Sir Peter Smithers and the Exbury Hybrids from the early part of the Twentieth Century), and a grower on the Isle of white called Silverbank Nerines, but I am not sure if they are still in business.

NERINE SARNIENSIS  'BERLIOZ'
A SELECTION OF THIS YEARS' DISPLAY OF NERINE SARNIENSIS  BLOOMING IN THE BRIGHT, NOVEMBER SUNSHINE IN MY GREENHOUSE.




6 comments :

  1. There are 2 main reasons why I love Autums (or Fall) more than any other season of the year. The first one would have to be the turning of the leaves and the second the blooming of bulbs.

    I too have been successful with the South African Guernsey Lilies but mine are all in white because, for some odd reason, the pink and red ones didn’t survive.

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  2. Grow tired of your nerine posts? Impossible. The colors of 'Ken Scott' have a lot in common with the dianthus 'Chomley Farran.' Wonderful photos.

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  3. Beautiful! I want these flowers! Roys

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  4. They are so special, I want to try!Is there ever any fragrance with N.sarniensis? Thanks for the beautiful images Matt!

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  5. I have never really come across Guernsey Lilies and/or Nerines before. Just beautiful. Thank you for the introduction!

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  6. Beautiful flowers. I like them.

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