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Monday, November 21, 2011

Denizens of the Cloud Forest for So Cal -Nerines

Nerine bowdeni
If you have only seen a nerine in a vase, or a couple of bulbs in a border, the notion you could grow them in drifts  (budget permitting) is an epiphany. Futhermore it turns out that nerines have a very glamorous history. The first ones that got to Europe from their native S. Africa came on an East Indiaman that was wrecked on the shore of the Island of Guernsey in the English Channel. It was called the Guernsey lily, or the Jewel Lily.
 N. sarniensis 
"Originally found on Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town in South Africa, the jewel lilies flower in a spectrum of colours from their original oranges, scarlet and white through new purples, pinks, mauves, reds, scarlets, copper and bronzes where they scintillate in the sunshine with gold or silver crystalline flecks that make their petals sparkle." (Exbury

Nerine bowdeni also came from S Africa ,the Drakensberg mountains, and was sent in seed form by Athelstan Cornish-Bowden to his mother  c 1904. This good lady raised the nerines then sent the seed off the Kew, asking the plant be named for her son.**

Exbury hybrids

Somehow, the nerine sarneiensis came to the attention of one of England's most accomplished and passionate botanists--- Lionel de Rothchild. Rothchild was of family necessity aa  banker,  and a successful  politician, but he described himself as a gardener by vocation.

Lionel de Rothchild

Rothchild was another of those extradinary men who turn up in love with botany. He bought the Mitford estate --yes, those Mitfords ("Love in a cold Climate") and proceded to build a beautiful Georgian house with acres of greenhouses in which he hybridized nerines in the 1920's and 30's. (Obviously he was very, very rich. well as being remarkable.)

Exbury House

Rothchild sold the unsurpassed nerine collection to another maddened nerine lover. The nerines went to Switzerland with Sir Peter Smithers where they thrived and became more various and beautiful until Sir Peter felt he could no longer care for them properly . He sold the collection back to the Rothchild's in 1995. Nicholas Rothchild who is Lionel's grandson and president of the Nerine Society, has taken charge of the collection. Quelle histoire. These are lucky, lucky  bulbs!

Naked Lady (she's a Mexican native)

What is even nicer is that with their Table Mountain, South African DNA we can grow them along our Central Coast with no trouble at all. Just like our ubiquitous Naked Ladies they flower in late summer, and early fall ---however, keep their strap like foliage.

** This hot off the press from The Telegraph (British paper) 11/26/11

Next: "Amaryllis" Hippeatrum and Lycoris. More bulbs to plant now from cloud forests.

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