Nerine sarniensis in red flower growing wild on a mountain side
The red nerine - Nerine sarniensis

It is a personal opinion of course, but I believe that the red nerine - Nerine sarniensis, is without doubt the very best autumn flowering bulb that money can buy! And you don't have to take my word for it because in 2002 Nerine sarniensis gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.

Bold red Nerine sarniensis in full bloom
The red nerine - Nerine sarniensis
With autumn truly in our midst, and the harsh reality of winter just a few short weeks away, these colder nights are causing havoc in my garden. The late planted Canna lilies are close to the end, and my cherished Dahlias, while still flowering, are chewed to bits.

Yes, I could apply some pesticide, but I believe that feeding caterpillars is definitely for the greater good. And who wouldn't want a garden full of butterflies in the spring?

Back to the nerine. So, if like me you keep yourself busy in a northern European garden, then nerines are an integral part of the successional calendar. So with little else to look forward to in the garden, Nerine sarniensis could be just the ticket.

I myself have a row of gorgeous, very deep pink Nerine bowdenii in the front garden, but there is a problem. While there are a number of truly hardy nerine species and cultivars for you to choose from, Nerine sarniensis isn't one of them. Of course you can grow it in a container and bring it under protection when needed, but at the end of the day most gardens have very little, if any, protected space for overwintering tender plants.

The red nerine - Nerine sarniensis
Native to the Northern and Western Capes of South Africa, Nerine sarniensis is a summer-dormant, perennial bulb which flowers on erect leafless stems. The leaves appear after the flowers which makes for an even more impressive impact.

They will need as much sun as you can provide, but will definitely need to be in a frost free environment. A winter temperature of  between 8 -10 degrees Celsius is ideal, but the bulbs can survive short periods of freezing if they are in deep pots.

You can expect them to flower from September to November, therefore, if you live in a more Mediterranean climate Nerine sarniensis is a perfect choice.

However, those secretive plant breeders may have worked their magic once more as they have managed to cross-breed the hardy, pink Nerine bowdenii with Nerine sarniensis to produce a hardy (hardier) red nerine cultivar.

Marketed as Nerine 'Codora' it seem to be only available through Taylors bulbs, but besides the packaging image there is very little information available. Be that as it may, if I can source some in the spring I will hopefully have more information to give next year.

For related articles click onto the following links:
How to Over-Winter Tree Peonies
THE GUERNSEY LILY - Nerine bowdenii
The Snapdragon - Antirrhinum majus

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