Although not widely used, the word 'geophyte' is used to describe any plant that has a corm, a tuber, a bulb, or any other storage structure under the surface of the soil...


Allium victorialis is, in many ways, a fairly dull species. It's nothing special; smallish heads of white flowers over broad strappy leaves. For me the appeal of this species comes from the folklore associated with it. Native to mountainous regions of Eastern Europe through into Asia, bulbs of the 'Vampire Onion' were hung above doorways to ward off vampires! I don't know if it works, I've certainly not been bothered by vampires! I do wonder which came first, garlic or the 'Vampire Onion'? Certainly garlic hasn't been quite as widely grown through Europe; given  that Allium victorialis smells faintly of garlic I wonder if the association with garlic came from garlic smelling of this species, rather than this species smelling of garlic? If you think that a lot of vampire folklore originates from Eastern Europe I think it would make sense. A very easy species, about 2ft (60cm) tall, happy in a sunny spot but not too dry or waterlogged.  



Eucomis montana is certainly a bit different from the more commonly seen E. comosa and E. bicolor. The large white flowers have a maroon centre (which can naturally vary in size), and are borne on an inflorescence about 18"-2ft (45-60cm) tall. This species is native to fairly high altitudes in South Africa and is, given good drainage, unexpectedly hardy. Winter wet is it's biggest enemy, closely followed by snails, so it might be worth giving a liberal dry mulch for winter or lifting the bulbs to be stored frost-free indoors. In summer this species really appreciates plenty of feed and water. Can be grown in containers but is MUCH easier to keep it well watered in the ground. Remember that if you do grow Eucomis in containers they are TENDER, so you MUST move them into a frost-free environment for winter!     





Although often still seen under the name 'Schizostylis', Hesperantha coccinea is the correct name for this gem of a late season perennial plant. Even the common name of this plant, 'Kaffir Lily' has had an overhaul, 'Kaffir' being a racist and derogatory term which has no place in modern society. However the proposed common name of 'Red Flag' has caused confusion because the name 'Flag' is usually associated with 'Flag Irises' (Iris pseudacorus)- confused yet?! Hesperantha coccinea originates from damp areas of South Africa but has proven itself to be a reliable hardy plant in the UK. In the mild and damp parts of the UK it spreads happily amongst other plants, rarely becoming a nuisance but easy to control if it does stray. From late summer through to the first serious frosts the bright red flowers add colour and cheer, and look particularly nice when bejeweled with a heavy autumn dew. An easy and reliable plant. Cultivars include 'Ballyrogan Giant' with large pink blooms, 'Pink Princess' with candy pink flowers, and 'Fenland Daybreak' with attractive salmon pink flowers (pink with a hint of orange). Be warned, other species of Hesperantha are harder to grow and difficult in the garden.