Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Nerine and Camellia ‘still have a lot to offer late fall’

Gardens are clearly starting to fade to prepare for winter at this time, but there are still a few plants that are enjoying something of a last hurrah. Nerine and Camellia are just two of these.

Nerine is native to South Africa – and it is the name of the genus that includes about 30 different subspecies. It has long since been widely cultivated and hybridized and can now be found in the majority of regions all over the world.

It is a bulb plant – and each of its bulbs are between three and five cm in diameter. It has a very long flowering cycle – with strap-shaped leaves arranged in two rows being produced from late winter through to spring.

Although the leaves usually die down by late spring, Nerine only tends to lie dormant until late summer.

Professional gardener Alun Rees described the Nerine bowdenii plant as being breathtaking – particularly when it comes to the burst of colour it offers on a dull fall day.

In an article for UK national newspaper the Daily Telegraph, he claimed that it is one of the most exotic bulbs to flower at this time of year. It is characterised by tall scapes, which terminate with a loose umbel of many trumpet-shaped flowers that are a shocking pink. Each of these flowers has six narrow perianths with flamboyant and wavy edges – which can look as though they have been sprinkled with gold.

Camellia is another, much larger genus of flowering plants that comprises somewhere between 100 and 250 described species. Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus named the genus after the Jesuit botanist Georg Joseph Kamel back in the 18th century. It is a part of the family Theaceae and is most typically associated with the regions of eastern and southern Asia, from the Himalayas east to Japan and Indonesia. However, plenty of cultivars and hybrids can now be found all over the world – which has created some controversy over the exact amount of existing subspecies.

The plants are evergreens – and these small trees can grow up to 20 meters tall. Their leaves are simple, thick, serrated and usually very glossy – and their flowers are very conspicuous and large, growing up to 12 cm in diameter.

Camellia sinensis is the most famous member of this species – although it is not always recognised as being a member of the same genus.

Professional garden and landscape designer Dan Pearson said that he has taken to planting Camellia sasanqua in pots – and this could be a great way for greenhouse gardeners to make the most of the plant.

In an article for the Guardian, he said that he does this "so that their out-of-season flower and perfume can be brought into a key position when they come into flower".

"This is often just when you need it. 'Hugh Evans' is a delightful single pink, the flowers loose and open, and smattered lightly through the foliage," Mr Pearson commented.

He went on to detail some more of the subspecies: "'Crimson King' is one of the hardiest, with deep crimson flowers and golden anthers. 'Narumigata' is a beautiful single white with just a flush of pink as it ages, and 'Fuji-no-mine' is a clear pure white and, by the time the leaves are down on the trees, a treasure in the gloom."

Mr Pearson added that terracotta pots are arguably the best option for anyone who is looking at growing Camellias.

"Place the pots in a saucer of water to prevent them from drying in summer and wrap the pots with bubble wrap in winter to prevent both the terracotta and the roots from freezing," he advised.