Plantswoman FIONA EDMOND owns the award-winning Green Island Gardens in Ardleigh. Today she talks about varieties of Alstromeria.

By the end of November practically all the herbaceous perennials have finished flowering and have died back for the winter.

However along with penstemons there is one group of flowering perennials that are still going just as strong as they were in July - Alstromeria.

Known as the Peruvian lily, traditionally it was the Ligtu Hybrids that were widely available and sold in garden centres.

However, these are not great plants in design terms as they flower only once in June or July, and tend to flop over quickly, then becoming a mess for the rest of the season.

In addition, they are apt to seed freely and the roots become invasive in favourable conditions. With the rise of the floral industry breeders have selected forms with larger flowers, taller much stronger stems which hardly need staking, and best of all are repeat flowering.

There are also lower growing varieties that have been bred for growing in pots which do repeat flower, however the most successful varieties for growing in borders are definitely the taller ones, my favourites being ‘Aimi’ which has lovely apricot yellow flowers delicately marked with pink and white flowers June to December.

Alstromeria ‘Aimi’ ‘Red Beauty’, tall to 4ft+ here at Green Island, strong red flowers June to December.

Alstromeria ‘Elizabeth’ - medium height to 3ft with cream pink flowers marked pink and yellow blooms June to December.

The tallest varieties have the strongest stems and make for fantastic cut flowers, lasting up to three weeks in a vase. If grown in a really sheltered position they can flower almost all year round.

There are several series of mid height and lower growing varieties, the best being, ‘Little Miss’ series,’ Inca’ series, and slightly older the ‘Princess’ series. All repeat flower but none as well as the four selected varieties above. To keep plants blooming from June to December, harvest flowers by gently twisting the flower stem so that it releases from the base of the plant.

Using this technique instead of snipping half-way up the stem promotes the plant to produce new flowering stems. Alstroemeria thrive planted in areas with full sun and in soil that drains well. In areas with winter freezes, mulch well to protect underground tubers and the flowers will come back year after year. You may be forgiven for thinking that these Alstromeria are not cheap to buy at £13-£15 for a decent sized pot, however in terms of real value they are unbeatable with their ability to provide colour for the house and garden for almost 12 months of the season, year after year. What a fantastic investment!

The above varieties can be seen growing and for sale at Green Island Gardens, Ardleigh.

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