Do you ever find yourself in the position of having a clear favourite plant? Over some nearly 50 years of gardening (I’m not that old; I just started before I was born!) I’ve had a few. In the days when I was knee high to my father (I’ve never measured myself against a badger’s backside), my parents had what I thought was a hedge of heleniums on one side of their lawn. When I bought my first house, I filched a clump for my virgin garden and have never been without some in the garden since. I still have the offspring of that original clump. And a lot of other varieties as well.
Then I fell for lilies. My lilies fell for lily beetle and the days of counting the number of lilies in the garden in the hundreds have passed into history, now becoming tens (though not far short of a single hundred). Lilies were followed by daylilies. No relation and hence no lily beetle. I’ve got quite a few of those around the garden now.
My latest plant love is alstroemeria. I’ve always liked them. Once established they’re pretty trouble free, grow away strongly, flower profusely and for a very long time – here from May to November. Yanking some stems off for the vase (always yank, never cut!) seems to send them into overdrive recovery mode. And they last well in the vase too. But our love affair suffered from repeated early failures.
Trying to grow from “bulbs” produced nothing year after year. They’re not bulbs but, rather, roots. Unless you just happen to have ideal conditions you’ll be throwing good money after bad.
Then a few years ago I came across a chap by the name of Viv Marsh who trades as Viv Marsh Postal Plants. Quite a dapper gent if you look at his photos. And pretty serious when it comes to propagating his plants (again, photos on his web site will show him dressed in lab coat and plastic head covering!).
His plants aren’t cheap. I dipped my toe in the water gently and took out a second mortgage (not really) to buy three. In their first year they exceeded my most exacting expectations. So last year, I mortgaged my house and the neighbours’ (without telling them) and bought a box full.
The photos this year speak for themselves:
I went back through my purchase notes. Over some ten years I’d forked out more in total for the so-called “bulbs” that came to nothing than I spent in two with Mr Marsh. I wish I’d come across him sooner. There are tall, mid-sized and dwarf varieties. Something for every taste.
The moral is “You get what you pay for. If you want colour, flowers for the vase, flowers for the garden, a riot, head across to his website. Don’t baulk at the prices, just order away and anticipate the results. The only special care they need is a deep mulch over the crowns in their first few winters* until the roots get established. Then they’re as tough as the proverbial old boots.
Just remember that, like the Triffids of John Wyndham’s novel, these plants can move. They’ll come up next year maybe a foot away from their location this year; the year after they’ll come up in both places. Then the clumps will merge. Give them space and leave them be and you won’t be sorry.
*Mr Marsh suggests straw. I used coir chips as I had a lot left over. I mulched, covered them with a bit of netting to hold the mulch in place, as the chips are very light when dry, and, in the spring, used my mulching garden vac to gently suck the chips off and shred them into soil conditioner.