Nerine thoughts:

Nick de Rothschild
Wed, 25 Aug 2010 10:02:17 PDT
I hope this gets to all the PBS list- I haven't worked out if by sending it 
to one of you whether everyone gets it to all as well- if not can someone 
send it round-

I’ve been reading all the nerine posts with great interest-

I was especially interested in Michael Homick’s list- We have lost most of 
the ‘Old Exburys' that my grandfather bred- I can just remember vaguely the 
story of the sale to Mrs Mennanger and I’m glad the collection continues to 
thrive- though how many originals survive….?

We, too, have a few Zinkowski hybrids, though we never got much of note so I 
cannot rate them.

Firstly: re flowering: our success rate is now very high- up in the upper 
90%s (per pot not per bulb) – we attribute this to

1) The late summer watering.  Indeed root maintenance is critical and an end 
of July soak works wonders.

2) we feed with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer- but I will try dropping all 
the nitrogen this year- I don’t think the ‘virus’ that develops with 
nitrogen is a virus- though I had noticed this yellow tracery appears on 
occasion- we thought it was insect induced.

3) we like our soil mix 5 parts John Innes 3, 1 part coarse sand, 1 part 
washed grit, 1 part bulb fibre, ½ part pasteurised manure. Friable, easy 
draining- nerines love it.

4) Equally critical for good flowering are plastic pots with no crock in the 
bottom! Clay pots draw the roots to form wads of fibrous root material and 
our impression is that this creates a weaker bulb. Dutch research, backed up 
with our dissection of bulbs show that n. sarniensis holds two buds at a 
time- this year’s and next year’s – some growers say that you need 5-6 
leaves to produce the flower bud.- and remember that is for the year after 
next… we aim for big fat bulbs, the bigger the better.

5) we don’t let our bulbs get too hot in the summer if we can help it- we 
keep 50% shade over them throughout most of the year with only short bursts 
of full sun in winter and spring.

6) Re Jim McKenny’s official verion of the nerine story:  I’m not a fully 
paid up subscriber to the Guernsey shipwreck- there are too many holes in it 
for my liking – for example: there is no record of the wreck in the island 
records and they were scrupulous record keepers- Dutch records too are 
equally lacking and they too are scrupulous- especially with such a dramatic 
rescue story .  There is however strong circumstantial evidence of 
skulduggery! Nerines were recorded in the collection of General John Lambert 
who was imprisoned on the island after the Restoration and his collection of 
plants went with him.  The Jurat (of the shipwreck tale) subsequently sent 
him to a far less salubrious prison sans bulbs…. Lambert’s daughters sought 
to have his collection returned without success… I leave you to draw your 
own conclusions as to how possession of bulbs of a similar variety was 
explained away (Oh a passing ship dropped them off… didah didah your honour) 
(but then the Jurat was the law on the island)

7) The truth is this-  there are so many variables within the genus and so 
many delightful hybrid combinations that one needs to have an obsessive 
personality and a fairly deep pocket… I see one of you accuses me of being 
expensive!!! Ha!!!! But then the expensive bulbs are the very, very finest 
and we are not commercial producers- only off-sets are sold when we re-pot. 
Not many people have the space for an extensive collection- we are lucky 
that I don’t look for an economic return on my glasshouse space- if I did we 
wouldn’t have nerines.

8) Old Sir Peter Smithers name cropped up: what a fabulous fellow he was- 
and what an amazing job he did to my Grandfather’s collection. Interestingly 
he dumped all but 4 of the originals from that so they are lost to us. His 
approach was “scientific” and he developed this “breeding programme”- 
basically he loved his computer, but this was in the 1980’s when databases 
on pc’s were not very good. It all worked OK for him because he made sure he 
kept his plants in numerical order ( a feat in itself) – what resulted 
however was a dog’s breakfast- firstly he stopped giving his quality progeny 
names so 25776b x 28541c = 31180 (a,b,c,d,e etc) though to begin with it was 
Virgo x Argonaut = 28456 (a,b,c,d, etc) as different genes shone through.

However when we collected the plants from Switzerland we packed everything 
into one small truck that then travelled through 5 countries to get back to 
UK. We unloaded the truck into a greenhouse, not realising that the 
numbering system once out of order, could never be unscrambled….. three 
greenhouse moves later….So we have renumbered them after sorting them by 
quality and we give anything worthwhile a new name- we still have the 
original database and can track 80% of them to the original Smithers 

Now to the sales pitch: I have completed our first full colour catalogue of 
all our named varieties in a lovely little book hardback and paperback and 
you can find it on at please buy it to make me 

It’s nice to know there are nerine lover’s out there… not many people have 
them it is true- they are rare in the wild and rare in cultivation too- 
their only commercialisation in Europe is by the Dutch who use them as a cut 
flower crop. And also, as observed by many of you, they are really a 
greenhouse or polytunnel plant- unless you live in Cape Town!

Best wishes


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