Give your autumn garden a colourful lift

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Nerines are such a lifesaver for the autumn garden as they flower when just about every other flowering plant is going over.

There aren’t the hardiest of bulbs, although Nerine bowdenii generally survives outdoors in this part of the country if planted in well-drained soil in full sun. The foliage appears in spring and dies down before the funnel-shaped flowers on long stems are produced around this time of year They will give weeks of colour if the weather is reasonable. The secrets of success when grown outdoors are not to plant the bulbs too deep, and to divide overcrowded clumps when they start to work their way out of the soil so fewer flowers are produced.

I prefer to grow nerines in pots as I find the flowering more reliable. They live in the greenhouse from when flowering finishes (about the beginning of November, usually); I bring them out to a sunny spot by the back door, where they can be most enjoyed, when the buds start to appear in late September. Grown in this way, they tend to produce the new leaves while still flowering, which is ideal for a container display. They do not need repotting until they are completely pot-bound as once the bulbs are split and repotted in smaller pots, they can be thoughtful about flowering the following autumn.

My favourite is the striking nerine ‘Lavandu’, which has huge heads of bicoloured, medium and dark pink flowers and blue-grey, strap-like leaves which are attractive in their own right. Most nerine cultivars bear pink or white flowers, but the Guernsey lily, N. sarniensis, and its cultivars, are orange, making an eye-catching blaze of colour on the autumn patio.