Nerine bowdenii is a breathtaking plant, especially on a dull autumn day.
Nerines are South African bulbs, widely planted in warmer regions for their late display of rich pink flowers. They work well in a mixed herbaceous border and make an excellent cut flower. They bear striking sprays of lily-like flowers with recurved petals on erect leafless stems.
Strap shaped foliage develops in spring and grows into clumps over time.
With its tall scapes, terminated by a loose umbel of five to 10 trumpet-shaped, shocking-pink flowers, it must surely be the most exotic autumn-flowering bulb. Each flower has six narrow perianths with flamboyant wavy edges, which in certain lights appear to have been sprinkled with gold. And their faint musky scent carries on the autumn breeze.
Grown as a block or a thick row, Nerine bowdenii is a lively addition to an autumn border.
It flowers outdoors from September to early November, depending on temperature and site, with stems 30cm-50cm (12in-20in) tall. The flowers are long-lasting in the garden and keep going when cut for indoor decoration. The strap-like leaves emerge after flowering and survive the winter undamaged.
The genus Nerine, named after the sea nymphs of Greek mythology, belongs to the Amaryllidaceae (amaryllis) family of herbaceous perennials, as do daffodils and snowdrops, although the flowers look more like lilies.
For many years it was thought that nerines came from Japan, but their native home is, in fact, South Africa, especially the Drakensberg mountains. There are about 30 species, but only a couple are reliably hardy outdoors in the Britain — N. bowdenii and N. undulata.
The former can withstand freezing temperatures, as low as -15C. N. bowdenii bulbs were first brought to Britain from South Africa by Cornish Bowden in 1903, hence the name.
Nerine bowdenii is a floral firework — a welcome flash of colour as the temperature drops and the days get shorter — that will brighten any garden.