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OSeeing the last spring-flowering bulbs just beginning to eclipse is always a slightly sad moment for me. Yet, as with most things in gardening, their departure is also a reminder of the perfect time to plant the next wave of bulbs, so you can keep the party going until late fall. And the best part is that over the last few years a whole new group of varieties has been made available through clever selection, which has given us even more fun to play: the amarines.

There is a curious phenomenon in biology called “hybrid vigor”, where the offspring resulting from the crossing of two different species are often larger, faster growing and tougher than either of their parents. This is especially the case when the marriage is between two relatively distant plants, belonging not only to different species, but to totally different genera. So when I read that ingenious plant breeders had managed to cross the two fall bulbs nerine and amaryllis to create a previously impossible intergeneric hybrid called “amarine”, I knew we were probably onto a good thing. – and after testing a few, I was simply blown away.

The shocking pink fireworks of nerines have long been extremely popular as garden plants and cut flowers. However, commercial cut flower growers have always found their lack of uniformity frustrating because, rather than appearing in perfect unison for harvesting all at once, they tended to bloom more evenly over a few weeks. The idea of ​​trying to cross them with more evenly blooming amaryllis for more synchronized flowering might not sound hugely beneficial to gardeners as it would technically mean a shorter color season. However, this cross had quite brilliant and unexpected consequences. The hybrid vigor meant that despite their more defined flowering window, the individual flowers also lasted much longer, meaning the benefit of their more dazzling single bloom is potentiated by the fact that they last much longer.

How hybrids can be the best of both worlds |  gardening tips
Spectacular amaryllis, associated with a nerine to form the new amarine. Photography: Mashabuba/Getty Images

The inheritance of larger bloom size and taller stature than typical amaryllis nerines makes for an even more spectacular spectacle while their nerine genetics make them more cold hardy than the sometimes temperamental amaryllis, capable to survive at least -10°C. Not bad considering these exotic flowers native to sunny southern Africa. Best of all, it’s not just a single cross, but now comes in a range of colors, from huge fluorescent pink ‘Belladiva Anastasia’ to ghostly white ‘Belladiva Emanuelle’ with delicate pink tints on the petals. ‘edges. The only thing they will require, however, is a really bright spot with full sun all summer or they will simply refuse to bloom. The ideal location is a gravel garden or in patio pots where they will get the excellent drainage and high light levels they love. They’ll give you years of joy in the darkest autumn days – proving that there’s always something bright to look forward to in gardening.

Follow Jack on Twitter @Botanygeek

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