Hartley Magazine

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

Tulbaghia violacea are ‘supremely elegant’

Gardeners who are still considering how to theme the overall look of their green space this year can rest assured there is plenty of time in which to give the topic some thought before committing to growing anything.

Indeed, there are lots of plants that are best put to seed around about [del] this time of year – and time is even less of an issue for those who are taking advantage of a greenhouse.

These controlled climates give the individual a much greater degree of command over the environment – and mean there is a lot more scope for growing plants out of their usual season.

Tulbaghia violacea is one plant that is ideal for placing in a greenhouse at this time of year. Celebrity gardener and former presenter of the Gardener's World television show Sarah Raven described them as being "tall, ethereal and supremely elegant" – and who wouldn't want to bring this kind of atmosphere to their own back yard?

It can more commonly be known as society garlic or pink agapanthus, but is just as often referred to by its Latin binomial name of Tulbaghia violacea – which was given to it by Irish botanist William Harvey Henry in the 19th century.

Historically used as a herbal remedy or medicine to treat many different kinds of ailment, it remains a topic of great interest in ethnopharmacology, having more recently been found to have androgenic properties.

They are related to the allium genus – which is most famously the species from which onions come. While they can flower throughout all of the summer season, Ms Raven noted that they require very little maintenance or attention.

The expert also stated that she grows hers in a pot at the foot of her greenhouse – a common approach to agapanthus too – and one that is usually a very successful.

As bulbous or rhizomatous perennials, Tulbaghia has umbels of small, star-shaped flowers with a small cup-like corona – as well as leaves that are faintly scented like onion.

Celebrated landscape architect Bunny Guinness recently started to grow around 100 of the plants. In an article for UK national newspaper the Daily Telegraph, she said that they came to her in green "with long leaves already".

She had them delivered to her in a more advanced stage of growth than those that would currently be growing around her if she started from scratch herself. This could be a tip for greenhouse growers to take into consideration!

Although there are clearly benefits to this approach, Ms Guinness said she did feel the need to quickly place them "in moist compost in pots in my frost-free greenhouse until conditions are warmer". She described them as being "my star bulbs".

Ms Raven advised anyone intent on growing several Tulbaghia violacea to space them at least 30 cm (12 inches) apart – and ensure that they are treated to plenty of coverage with mulch during cold snaps or in the more punishing winter months.