Behind the scenes - Growing Scarlet River Lilies

Sitting in our greenhouse are rows of small Scarlet River Lily plants waiting to flower next year.  They grow really well here in Cornwall but are also suitable for a sunny position in a wide range of damper soils.

Scarlet River Lilies are now known Hesperantha coccinea.  Most gardeners will know them as Schizostylis.  Their natural habitat is alongside streams and damp areas in the eastern side of Southern Africa.  They are well adapted to growing in the UK, but flower much later here from autumn into mid winter, where they flower in mid summer in Southern Africa  I suspect this is because they prefer to grow in damper soils and live in summer rainfall areas, so when the rains arrive in the UK in the autumn this prompts them into flower.  Although they prefer to live in damp soils, our clumps live in hot south and west facing borders and are surviving and spreading really well.  We do have a high water table here, which may help. 

These plants are no problem to sow from seed, although they take a little time to get going, typically 1-2 months to germinate, at 10-20 degrees Celcius.  Start them early in spring to allow plenty of growing time in the summer.  Starting later is fine, particularly if you have a greenhouse to keep them in over the first winter, but they may take a little longer to flower, typically two to three seasons of growth.   Plants grown from seed generally flower in red, but you will also see some in pink and white.  If you wish to grow more of the pink and white forms, grow the desired plants to mature size and then divide them in autumn/winter after the plants have flowered.  They have fleshy roots and are easy to divide.


                                      Seeds................................................................................Seedlings........................................................................Plants in full flower!

Plants look great if encouraged to form large clumps over time, with a stunning display of colour in late summer and early winter. Ours are still flowering In Cornwall in December as I write this.  They are good cut flowers.

More here on buying and growing Scarlet River Lilies from seed.

Created On  7 Dec 2018 17:55  -  Permalink

Just arrived - a limited supply of Natal Lily seeds!

We have a limited supply of Clivia miniata or Natal Lily seeds available this autumn.  These are unconventional large fleshy seeds only available in small quantities in late autumn here in the UK.

The seeds set in green fleshy pods that slowly ripen to red.  Once ripe, the pods are broken open and up to 4 seeds removed from each pod.  The seeds are cleaned and the slimy film removed and then sown straight away in a tray of seed compost, burying each seed only half way into the seed compost.  The seed tray needs to be kept moist and warm, typically 16-25 degrees Celcius and the seeds germinate within 2-4 weeks.  Each seed sends out a root shoot first, followed by a fleshy stem.

Natal Lilies are frost tender, coming from sub-tropical areas of Southern Africa, so they are grown as houseplants in the UK.  They are forest plants and prefer to grow away from direct sunlight and can tolerate dryer soils.

These are typically pricey seeds and plants, as the seeds do not store well and the plants grow slowly, taking up to 4 years to reach flowering size.  I like growing from seed as there will be some variation in the flower colour, from yellow to red, but most plants will flower in orange.

  Ripened Clivia seed pods

 Clivia seeds, removed from the pods, cleaned and ready to sow

  Clivia seedling, about 1 year old

 Adult Clivia in flower!

Interesting in buying, sowing and growing these plants from seed?  See more information.

Created On  19 Nov 2018 18:40  -  Permalink

Behind the scenes - Growing Pineapple Lilies

I do like bulbous plants, and it helps that so many originate from Southern Africa and I have a chance to work with them.  Growing these plants from seed to flower is generally a two to three year project, so a lot of patience is required.  Behind the scenes we are growing our own Pineapple Lilies.  These are not true Pineapples but unrelated plants that bizarrely have flowers that resemble pineapples, hence their name.

Plenty of gardens contain Eucomis comosa, especially a dark-leaved variety Sparkling Burgundy.  A lovely plant, but does not flower true from seed, so has to be grown from bulbs or leaf cuttings..

My favourite is Eucomis bicolor, a perfect height for the edge of a dry or gravel garden, with lovely bi-coloured flowers.  The flowers stay on the plant all summer and well into autumn (still flowering in November) and they are little effort once established in the garden.  Plants grow best in warmer or sheltered UK gardens, but survive in most gardens if mulched over winter or the bulbs can be lifted in autumn and replanted in spring.  The plants grow wild in the Drakensberg Mountains of Southern Africa, which can be cold and damp, and this explains why they adapt well to life in the UK.

Below is a photo of one of our seedlings, now one year old in late autumn.  They will die down over winter and emerge in the spring and I am hopeful a few may flower in their second season.  More likely it will be another year after that before most bulbs are large enough to flower.

Next year, I will try leaf cuttings, which are done in the summer.  It is something we are getting better at, having used them successfully for Peperomia house plants earlier this year, so feel this is worth a try.  Plants can also be propagated by growing on small bulbs or offsets that form alongside the adult bulbs.  These can be separated when the plant is dormant in the winter/early spring, and grown on in pots.  These are easy to do, but also take about three years to reach flowering size.


 One year-old seedling

 Adult plants in flower

See more on buying, sowing and growing Pineapple Lilies.

Created On  14 Nov 2018 16:06  -  Permalink

Sow Acanthus mollis in autumn

Sow Acanthus mollis in autumn

No Mediterranean or coastal garden is complete without Acanthus plants.  Favoured by the Greeks for their beautiful leaves and unusual flowers, they are still popular today, and for good reason.  Being very hardy, they can be grown right across the UK in most gardens. They are great coastal plants, tolerating high winds, salt spray and hot summers.  

Autumn is a good time to sow Acanthus seeds if you have a greenhouse or windowsill to get them started.  Acanthus seeds are unusual as they dry out quickly after ripening in late summer and are difficult to store for more than 6-12 months.  We keep ours in a sealed container in a fridge and donít keep them for more than one season, preferring to sow them fresh off the plants in the autumn.

These large seeds germinate well in the lower temperatures of autumn and grow fast once germinated, which only takes 2-3 weeks.  Spring is also a good time if seeds are still plump and not dried out.  As seen below, we sowed the first batch of seeds in a pot and the plants are growing so well they are crowding each other already. 

The small plants need no special treatment other than giving them some protection until the weather warms up in spring when they can be re-potted or planted out after hardening off.  Flowering may start next summer, but more likely the summer after.

Update 3 weeks later on the seedlings just emerging above.  See below for a lovely healthy seedling in the process of being re-potted.  These seedlings are growing beautifully in an unheated greenhouse, with no problems from any pests or diseases.  I love the way the light reflects on the shiny leaves.  Reminds me of Chatham Island Forget-Me-Nots, one of New Zealand's most lovely mega-herbs - more to come on this next year!  Autumn really is a great time to sow and grow Acanthus plants in Cornwall. 
 Acanthus seedling 3 weeks later in the process of being re-potted

See more on sowing and growing Acanthus.

These now available to buy as plants in 8cm pots.

Created On  12 Nov 2018 15:27  -  Permalink

Behind the scenes - growing Wachendorfia

I thought I'd share some photos of our Wachendorfia seedlings.  These plants have become more popular after featuring in a BBC Radio 4 Gardner's Question Time programme in 2017.  We are now struggling to source the seeds after our main supplier stopped shipping them, so we are cultivating the remaining seeds into plants.  I am not sure if the plants will be naturally pollinated and produce seed in the UK as they are a Cape Flora plant, growing in the southern areas of South Africa, and ecologists are not clear how they are pollinated.  Not bees, possibly beetles, which may not be resident here in Cornwall.  I know mature plants can be divided once the underground rhizomes reach a decent size.  This is a behind-the-scenes long-term project delivering plants for sale in maybe three to four years. But we are hopeful they will be an unusual and popular choice of waterside plant for our mostly mild and sometimes very damp conditions in Cornwall.

These are seedlings sown two months ago - they started germinating within three weeks and germination stopped after about six weeks - on a west facing windowsill indoors.

These are the plants we are aiming for!

We have a few remaining packets of seeds if you would like to try yourself.  Let me know how you get on or if you are a supplier (Nagoya Protocol compliant) who can source seed for us. Jane

Created On  9 Nov 2018 12:28  -  Permalink

Sow Sweet Pea Seeds in November

November is a good time to sow Sweet Pea seeds.  A November start gives you earlier flowers in the summer.  Sow more seeds in spring and you have later flowers too, resulting in a longer season of interest.

Sow three seeds into each 9cm pot, keep in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse and each pot of seedlings can be planted out directly into the soil in spring.

Try our new Multipack selection of Sweet Peas.

Created On  30 Oct 2018 10:18  -  Permalink