Whenever I add a new plant to my collection I generally find it takes a few seasons to become properly acquainted with it, and my alstroemerias are no exception.
I’ve been growing the Planet series of alstroemerias, namely Cahors, Sirius, Uranus and Sedna, for only a couple of years, and I now know from experience that they are reasonably reliable as regards overwintering in my location, both in containers and in the ground (they haven’t been tested for prolonged periods of below -5C, but that is rare in this part of the world, thankfully!). I also know that they flower freely over a very long period from May right through to December in milder years, that they aren’t overly demanding when it comes to food and water, that their flowering stems need support of some kind and that they appear to be non-invasive.
What I didn’t know until this spring was how they respond to being dug up and moved, something which varies greatly between species, so I decided to experiment with my clump of Cahors which I’d planted quite close to Sirius and needed shifting along a bit.
I was in two minds as to when to do it: for many herbaceous plants it doesn’t really matter whether you lift them in autumn or spring, but given that in my garden all my alstroemerias insist on flowering way into December I decided spring was probably the better option. So, in late March I set to with a fork and spade, carefully digging up the clump and re-planting it in manured ground a foot or so away. Then I waited….and waited….and waited.
I have to say that by the end of April I was starting to think that I’d managed to kill it because, whilst all my other untouched plants were sprouting vigorous new shoots, Cahors was doing absolutely nothing. Nary a leaf nor stem. It wasn’t until mid May that I finally started to see signs of life, and even now there isn’t much to show for it:
Just 3 short shoots have emerged thus far compared to the dozen or so much taller ones that have come up from the untouched plants:
So I think what I’ve learnt here is that whilst they can definitely be lifted and divided, they do not particularly appreciate the disturbance and are probably best left to their own devices as much as possible, only requiring attention when they become over-congested.
I imagine that my clump of Cahors will re-establish itself fairly quickly and will ultimately benefit from having a bit more elbow room, but I shall know to leave it in peace for a good few years now!
Clearing out my coldframe this morning, I was surprised to see that I have some unlikely survivors from last year, namely three citrus seedlings that I grew from supermarket fruit last spring:
Okay, they’re in pretty bad shape – slugs and snails have had a good old munch by the looks of things! – but somehow, they’re still alive having had no more winter protection than could be provided by my coldframe against the house wall. I know we had an incredibly mild winter, but even so, I wouldn’t have thought that very small citrus seedlings would have come through it without heat.
And then there are my remnant fuchsias from last year. Just the other day I spotted:
my “Swingtime” from last year has not only survived almost intact but is already flowering! The only protection that it had was pulling the pot up against the house wall, but I do that every year and have never had this happen before. I didn’t even put any horticultural fleece on it…amazing!
To add to the list of early risers, I have a pink diascia from last year in flower:
and also Alstroemeria “Cahors”:
Both of these could be flowering until November so I think I’d better get feeding them!
Lastly, this is the earliest I’ve ever seen this in flower in my garden:
Tradescantia “Sweet Kate”, sadly rather chomped by pests before I realised it, but stunning nonetheless (especially from far enough away not to see the damage, lol!).
Not the best photo as I over-exposed it, but anyway:
This is the last of my five new alstroemerias to come into bloom, and it’s another winner in my book. The flower stalks, which appear in succession from mid-summer, eventually rise to about 18 inches tall and are sturdy enough to be self-supporting, whilst the flowers themselves, which last for weeks, are an appealing shade of rich salmony-orange (they show a lot pinker in my photo than they are in real life).
As long as I can keep them through winter, I think these alstroemerias are probably the best addition to my garden in a long time. In their first season they’ve ticked most of the boxes for a small-garden-friendly plant: compact, healthy, easy-care, vigorous without being unruly, long-flowering and, of course, beautiful!
The one thing they lack is scent, which is a pity, but considering all their other virtues, I’ll gladly give them a pass.
I’ve grown them as container specimens this year, and they’ve performed extremely well in that situation; I’m good at watering, feeding and generally pampering plants in containers, so they’ve had it easy really. Next year, however, I’ll be moving them out into the borders, so it will be interesting to see how they do there. For one thing, I suspect that I’ll have a much harder time protecting them from slugs and snails, and for another, they’ll also have to contend with my rather unlovely soil and somewhat unfocused border watering and feeding regime, so things will definitely be different!