I was cleaning the windows the other day and was amazed at how many spiders were nesting in the eves. Maybe it’s just the fact that it’s autumn and that’s what spiders do, but it might also the fact that I have hundreds of caterpillars climbing the walls as the look for somewhere to cocoon themselves up and unwittingly finding themselves being the main course for dinner. I’m being very selective and moving the spiders to pastures new as I wash, the caterpillars are not getting the same level of attention though.
Talking of autumn things, I was in the beautiful Muff woods this week and noticed the fungi and mushrooms are out in force, leaves are starting to fall and I can’t fathom out whether I should just be wearing a shirt, jumper or a full overcoat. We start the days off cool and damp then it turns hot in the sun then cool in the evenings. This suits me as I can throw the clothes layers off and it certainly suits the fungi, I have never seem such a variety as this year.
There are other types of plants that enjoy this type of weather and one of them is a new addition to the garden. The Kaffir lily or ‘Schizostylis coccinea’ to give it its Latin name. I was given a clump of these autumn flowering bulbs by my mother in law, all nicely wrapped up in newspaper and ready for planting out just before their flowers came out. For now I have planted them into a pot until I decide where in the garden they will go.
How to grow Kaffir lily
The flowers remind me of crocosima, or montbretia as they are also called. The iris type flowers are pretty though and in the evening the flowers close and nod in the breeze. The plants originate from South Africa and enjoy warm wet summers and cold and dry winters so should be at home here.
There are many forms of Schizostylis coccinea. The copper-red ‘Major’ is the most readily available and a very good performer. There is a pure white form, ‘Alba’, which has narrower petals. You might see some other types in the garden centres from time to time.
They do survive in dry gardens, but they look miserable and flower poorly, if at all. It is possible to improve flowering by mulching them with a thick layer of gravel in spring after heavy rain. This will preserve moisture and allow them to flower. The gravel also filters winter rainfall. The frosts will kill off the top growth but they will return next year. If you have heavy clay, add lots of grit and put them in a sheltered position against a wall.
The kaffir lily will look good grown on their own, rather like nerines, and could be used along a sunny path or in a border. Position them away from the edge as they tumble forward. Or use them in front of deciduous shrubs and trees because the warm red or clear pink flowers, held well above the foliage, add a touch of freshness just as the leaves fall.
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