PLANT OF THE WEEK #54: Nerine flexuosa ‘alba’
My mum (91 years) tells me that her mother wore a white nerine for mother’s day every year. I adored my Nana Barker, so that guarantees the nerine’s presence in any garden I own.
But the notability of Nerine undulata (Flexuosa Group) ‘Alba’ (as it’s now known) as a garden plant goes way beyond its sentimental associations.
Its floral form is, to my eyes, the best of all the nerines. As much as I love Nerine bowdenii, for instance, and never fail to smile over the sudden appearance of it’s sugary pink amongst red and yellow autumn foliage, there’s just a little too much ‘space’ in its flowers. In Nerine undulata (Flexuosa Group) ‘Alba’ the flowers are held, for their size, the perfect distance from the stem, and flare in perfect proportion to their length and petal width. Any attempt to improve its design would be a waste of time.
Then, despite its design perfection, it’s in the running to win MM’s ‘neglect-plant of the century’ award. Other than to be left firmly alone, it requires nothing from the gardener at all. The biggest and best clumps are always in the oldest and most neglected of gardens.
Which leads us to it’s other great virtue, and that’s its love of shade. That it’s really the only nerine that loves shade can’t be painted as a virtue, as such, any more than the fact that I’m the only one of my siblings to have any interest in gardening should make my love for it, or my proficiency in it, more worthy of recognition. But a bulb that loves the shade does need to be celebrated, and particularly when that shade is cast by a big old tree, or a nearby rose, or other surrounding planting that would almost certainly ensure the demise of nearly every other bulb. It may be safer to specify ‘part shade’, as I know for sure that there’d be shade that was so deep as to prevent this nerine from blooming, but I’d love to hear of your experiences of its shade tolerance. Furthermore, its love of shade isn’t really a preference, and it will flower just as well in full sun.
Add to all that that Nerine undulata (Flexuosa Group) ‘Alba’ pops up right when everything else is in an advanced state of season-fatigue, and one wonders why our gardens aren’t full of it.