Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Thursday, 15 October 2015

GBBD: Jersey Lilies and Latin Shenanigans


I couldn't return from holiday and not tell you about Jersey lilies for this month's Blooms Day. They were everywhere on the island, in virtually every garden and hedgerow. When I saw the hand-picked welcome from our cottage owner's garden, I suddenly remembered their common name. How appropriate to find them in profusion on their namesake island, even though they really hail from South Africa.

I've tried growing them before, but without much success. Their strap-like leaves appear every year, but no flowers. I planted them in a sun-baked gravel area which is what they like, but I thought I hadn't buried them deeply enough. Now I've seen how they were growing away in the gardens at Samares Manor with their bulbs exposed for everyone to see, I wonder if I've buried them too deeply.

They're rated as H3 hardiness, which is borderline for their survival in my garden. They're more suited to the gentler climate Jersey has to offer, though mine haven't been killed off yet. That's encouraging, so I'll try some winter protection first before I think about replanting them.

Are you having a re-think about the plants in your garden?

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Garden.

Latin with or without tears (you can choose which one you prefer this month)


The Latin name for the Jersey lily is Amaryllis belladonna. Amaryllis is named after a shepherdess from Greek mythology, Amarysso.  It also means 'to sparkle' and I thought the flowers did indeed do that in Jersey without knowing the name's meaning beforehand. Belladonna is 'beautiful lady' in Italian, thus adding to the apt description hidden in this bulb's Latin name.

Those of you considering buying your Hippeastrum bulbs ready for that event in December beginning with C*, may find them confusingly called Amaryllis in the shops. This harks back to a huge horticultural argument over Linnaeus's original naming. He'd put together the South African bulb plus another hailing from South America into the same genus, which were subsequently separated into two genera.

The naming debate raged on for nearly 50 years, and was finally resolved in 1987, with today's Blooms Day plant keeping the genus name. However, Hippeastrum is still referred by many as amaryillis (its common name). It seems our difficulty with Latin names is nothing new, particularly when the Latin genus name also becomes the common one**.

* = shhhh, I try not to mention the C-word until its proper time in December. We have Hallowe'en and bonfire night to get through yet.

** = I'm keeping quiet about my ongoing difficulties with Dicentra/Lamprocapnos and Aster/Symphyotrichum at this point, though you may like to sympathise along with me on this recent tweet from Rosemary Hardy.



Here are some lovely Michaelmas daisies, asters, Symphyotrichum from my garden. This one's Symphyotrichum novi-belgii 'Waterperry', as featured in last October's Blooms Day, where it appeared in its plain aster form. It looks like I've hit on a way of having 'new' plants in my garden without having to buy any or rely on the birds to bring them in.



21 comments:

  1. Beautiful Jersey lilies, and interesting that the bulbs are barely covered when they're grown on Jersey. I'm guessing your Waterperry is adored by bees. I think I shall look out for one purely on that basis, I saw one recently that was absolutely covered in them.

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    1. Asters are a bee magnet CJ - I'm thinking of adding 'Little Carlow' to my garden as I've just found out it originates from nearby Devizes.

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  2. Asters are such beautiful late flowers, that's why I'm trying to get a few more for the garden here. I've been thinking about Amaryllis too, so will remember not to plant them too deep!

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    1. I must check up on soil depth Pauline - I think they may have been crowding each other out on Jersey!

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  3. You have beautiful flowers in your garden!

    Greetings, Sofie #26
    http://sofies-succulent-beads.blogspot.be

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    1. Thanks Sofie - BTW there's no need to leave your blog address - we can find it via your name on this comment or Carol's Blooms Day list :)

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  4. You know, that whole aster renaming thing drives us nuts. Symphyotrichum is just a dumb name. In the U.S. many of us think so anyway. Hugs to you. I wish you could come visit. ~~Dee

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    1. I think you got started with it earlier than we did Dee! For once I'm tempted to stick with the common name ;)

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    2. At least we can visit each other virtually Dee. It makes you seem a lot closer - your garden is looking fab, I hope the tour visit goes well xxx

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  5. What a gorgeous little photo of the Jersey lilies by the green door/gate/thing. I didn't know about the definition being "to sparkle". How lovely!
    Flying in the face of every other gardener on the planet - I like name changes. I find them refreshing. I think Symphyotrichum is a lot more fun to say than Aster (which I always thought was a very dull name indeed). Hurrah for Symphyotrichum!

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    1. Don't they look fab Sarah? Just shows how the setting can be important for showing off flowers. Hurray for an alternative view on the name change, though I admit unlike you I haven't got to grips with saying it yet. I'm also struggling with the spelling - I always remember the trichum bit first (= three friends) and then get the first bit through remembering it's a slightly reordered symphony with the n taken out!

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  6. I do wish they would stop messing around with plant names. I am sticking with Michaelmas daisy :-)

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    1. Good idea Sue - have you seen the masses of Michaelmas daisies on the M1 around the Sheffield junctions? Most impressive!

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  7. I know the name changed several years ago, but I still can't refer to asters by their new proper botanical name. I agree with Sue--I wish they would stop changing names! On the other hand, I call Hippeastrum amaryllis; perhaps I should change my ways with that one. The Jersey lilies are lovely.

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    1. Thanks Rose - the name change is more recent for us, I didn't know about it until I opened Timber Press's book on Asters early this year. It has a really good explanation of the name change, as you know there's more than 1 of them!

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  8. Plant names can be so difficult to spell and pronounce. I prefer asters, the simpler the language the better.

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    1. I think I'll be sticking with their common name for a while Kelli, but I have to take care because sometimes the common name I know means a completely different plant to my friends across the pond. Perhaps that's a subject for a stand alone 'Latin Without Tears' post sometime.

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  9. I refuse to grow lilies any more, thanks to lily beetle, but your first photo is almost enough to tempt me back to the dark side... I love Rosemary Hardy's tweet, I have to admit to not yet even trying to learn the new names for asters. I do love them though, whatever they are called.

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    1. Hi Janet - these are a very distant relative of the lilies you're thinking of and according to the RHS's website don't get attacked by the lily beetle. Well, it's not specifically mentioned on there...

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  10. Jersey lilies, because a load of bulbs was once shipwrecked there.
    J'y suis, j'y reste
    I'm here and I like it!
    In March I'll see if my transplanted bulbs will bloom for me.

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    1. How intriguing! I've been doing some light Googling which shows the shipwreck might have had nerines rather than amaryilllis... so which flower is the true Jersey lily I wonder? I need to delve deeper :)

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