TOW Nerine Part 2

Hamish Sloan
Wed, 30 Apr 2003 13:54:43 PDT
Dear All,

Something on species and a little on hybrids. Would love to hear from you!

Species - Summer-growing

My experience with the species has been brief but enough for me to feel 
that I have been missing some delights. There are some taxonomic 
uncertainties here still and Graham Duncan has commented that there is work 
to be done here. If you want a good brief guide to the species, Graham's 
booklet in the Kirstenbosch Gardening Series is a gem. I just wish to 
comment on a few.

Nerine bowdenii - Very valuable outside. I have found it worth while to 
provide VERY good drainage in order to get good flowering and good 
survival. At present, my best show comes from some bulbs set in a bed just 
outside the door on one greenhouse with the subsoil replaced by broken, 
porous bricks and old mortar rubble (lime mortar rather than cement 
mortar), this layer leading off downhill by the side of the greenhouse. I 
also plant other spring flowering bulbs in the bed, such as Dutch Iris (  
they throw up their hardy leaf quite early here), daffodils, triteleia , 
and these other bulbs provide a hardy foliage cover that protects the 
emerging leaves of the N. bowdenii that come after flowering is over.

The "ordinary"  (how can I say ordinary for such a useful flower?) Nerine 
bowdenii has a number of variants. "Fenwick's Variety" is often quoted, 
though having heard the story of its origins, I am doubtful that it is a 
fixed variety or even a particular selection. However, David Fenwick, who 
is a distant relation, assures me that it is but not so commonly available 
as it appears. This mis-naming in the trade is endemic here as in other 
areas of horticulture. F. V., as I know it, seems to fall well within the 
range of variation of the ordinary N. b. judging from the splendid show I 
saw at Ken Hall's Springbank Nursery on the Isle of Wight last October. N. 
b. "Manina" is a pale pink, very consistent colour, form, size. I heard 
second hand of a comment in an Australian e-list of a reference to N.b. 
"Manina forest form". Is this something different from that currently 
available from nurseries in Oz or elsewhere? Perhaps our Ozzie 
correspondents could throw some light on this. "Marnie Rogerson" seems more 
floriferous than the ordinary N.b. and again a consistent colour. It 
flowers every year with me, both indoors and out. These two contrast with 
the variability of the ordinary N.b. which is sometimes described as 
unreliable in flowering. My feeling with regard to the unreliability of 
flowering is that there appear to be clones with a range of properties that 
include floriferousness, scape length and fertility and one has to find the 
appropriate clone. One problem I have faced is that N. b. is often not N. 
b. but a cross of N.b. with something else. Tony Norris, who did much good 
work, does appear to have been a little lax in not keeping such 
experimental crosses separate from the type. There is also N.b. "E.B. 
Anderson" which I am just growing from seed now; this is reputed to breed 
true from seed..  I recently picked up (this phrase sounds the appropriate 
note of vague disbelief that I have about the reliability of the attributed 
naming) a couple of named clones "Nikita" and "Kodora". I have seen the 
latter spelt "Codora". These have not flowered with me yet, but "Nikita" 
acts like N.b. in timing of the foliage growth. The "Kodora" acts more like 
a hybrid of different origins in this respect as it is only now beginning 
to grow its leaves.

There is a N.b. alba - not a pure white but flushed pink. At present I have 
four clones that claim to be this bulb, and I know of two others with 
another member of our Nerine and amaryllid Society. (Yes, I know! Nerine is 
an amaryllid too so why the repetition? The founders just happened to be 
mainly interested in nerine but we sought to extend the range of interest 
to give us viability given that a previous nerine only society in this 
country had folded.) All are different in form, colour intensity, even 
chromosome counts, though I don't have the details for the latter myself as 
the comment came from a friend who knows more of the botanical side than I. 
One clone has come from the local garden centre and, as you all know, such 
sources are often unreliable on identification (and often on presence of 

I would be interested to hear others' experiences with this species and its 
variants, including other variants I have not tried myself.

One of the variations that startled me at Ken Hall's nursery was two large 
beds of N.b. either side of a path, both about six feet wide and about 30 
feet long. In one bed the flower stems were all consistently about 10 
inches tall, in the other about 20 inches tall. The consistency in each bed 
as well as the contrast was remarkable. Ken said they were from different 
sources and the difference was not due to the slightly better protection of 
a hedge alongside one of the beds.

N.b. in the wild tends to grow on the south facing slopes, that is those 
slopes that face away from the sun. I don't think this would be something 
to follow in the UK where the sun is certainly less intense at any time of 
the year! Those of you in sunnier climes might care to observe any 
differences for slopes facing or away from the sun.

There are other named versions but I just don't have my hands on these as 
yet - Duncan mentions "Favourite" and "Van Roon" in the Netherlands,

N. krigei

I've not a lot to say on this one. I have only just started off some seed 
which came from the Croft Bulb order that Jennifer organised recently. (I 
can certainly support those who named Croft as a reliable supplier. I am 
getting good germination with my various amaryllids from them.) I cannot 
remember where I saw it, but I came across a comment that this species "is 
not very important". We all know the problems that occur with colour photos 
but the colours shown for this species in Duncan's book are intriguing. The 
spiral form of the leaves is interesting too. Is this nature's way of 
keeping the leaves erect to get a better share of the light?

Species - Winter-growing

N. sarniensis

This species is the source of most of the cultivars. It is unfortunate that 
many of the named cultivars of the past and the records of their 
development have been lost or not recorded. There are still of the order of 
at least 600 and probably over a thousand cultivars around in collections 
in the UK and there are certainly cultivar names mentioned for the USA that 
I do not know of here. There are several recognised colour variations of N. 
sarniensis itself and there is probably at least some involvement of  other 
species in the development of the essentially sarniensis hybrids, but it is 
marvelous that there is such a potential for the wide variation in colour 
and form of the cultivars.

N.s. also has a reputation for unreliability in the flowering stakes, 
though I do not know whether this is intended to be a general comment or 
applies to particular clones or colour variations. My own, probably single 
clone, which started off as three bulbs brought back by my daughter from 
Guernsey, have given me one to three flowers each year, though I now have 
about eight flowering size bulbs. I am seeking seed of this and other 
species in order to make comparisons of the species from various locations. 
Commercially the var. Corusca major is used as a more reliable flowering 
version. Is this a clone, variant or a hybrid?

N. humilis

Some of the species have much narrower and much more wavy, crinkled petals 
and this is one of them. Said to be very variable in colour and regularity 
of form, though my clearly single clone doesn't give me any clues on this 
variability. I don't know yet whether the N. peersii, that I obtained 
thinking it was something different and then finding it a synonym for N. 
humilis, is a different clone. These flowers have a delicacy that appeals, 
due to their narrow crinkly petals. It might be a good breeding source for 
more waviness in hybrids.

N. pudica

This is a curiosity in that the flower form is distinctly different from 
other species - my sample is an almost conical white trumpet with no 
waviness in the petals, though Graham Duncan's illustration does show a 
small amount of waviness at the tips. Relative to the length of the petals 
(compared to other nerine spp.) the petals are quite wide. I find this 
species to be regular in flowering each year so far - only had it 3 years.

Evergreen Species

N. filifolia

I've not had this in flower yet but that may be shortness of time. There 
seems no problem in keeping it growing.

N. undulata, flexuosa

Graham Duncan puts these together as one species and I have to admit that 
though I have had both flowering, I have not stopped to take a closer look 
to see that this is so. Certainly, I have more than one clone labeled as 
one or the other and there is some variation in the pink colour. Also there 
is a white form, which I have as N. f. alba. Ken Hall reports these as 
"being hardy in favourable climatic conditions in the UK". I shall have to 
try some outside when my stocks increase.


Briefly!! There are lots but new ones need to be developed to replace ones 
that are lost to virus or whose line degenerates as well as to find new 
forms. Nonetheless, it is some of the older ones that really take my fancy. 
I have already mentioned "Lady Cynthia Colville" - a good reliable 
flowering hybrid. One large bulb gave me three flower stems last year and I 
look forward to seeing her fairly early in the season. "Maria" and "Miss 
Cator" are early in flower too and both produce two or more scapes 
regularly. I have done fairly well with both these for hybridizing 
attempts. Best for seed setting when pollinated by other hybrids for me is 
"Stephanie". On the other hand, the very desirable free-flowering, gold 
sparkle, red colour of "Wolsey" that I would like to extend to other 
hybrids is tantalizing - but I cannot get more than unreliable whispers of 
seed that won't germinate using "Wolsey" as male or female parent.

I have a number of whites but "Blanchfleur" surely takes the biscuit.

Some hybrids show a tendency to change colour as the flower ages and not 
necessarily simply looking old. "Hotspur" is a good example. Its florets 
change from deep pink to purple as the flowers develop to fully open.

"Jenny Wren" is an old variety without crinkled petals, having 
characteristics inherited from, I believe, N. flexuosa. Quite large flowers 
and very good at producing two or more stems each year.

Regards Hamish
UK Wettish Zone 9

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