Sternbergia lutes growing at the bottom of the dry riverbed.
One of the gardener’s great challenges is to keep the garden full of colour as summer gives way to fall and most perennials begin to die back. There are several bulbs, corms, and tubers that bloom in late summer and autumn, however, which help prolong the garden’s colour well into October. Some of those favoured by Mrs Robinson include dahlias, crinum lilies, amaryllis, autumn crocus, and the autumn daffodil known as Sternbergia lutea. As she wrote in her book, Glorious Disarray, ‘Late bulbs give great interest and importance just where you need them.”
Although all these bulbs grow here at Denmans, our plant of the month is the autumn daffodil, because of its beautiful golden yellow flowers that resemble large crocuses – not something one expects to see this time of year.Mrs JH advocated growing Sternbergia in gravel gardens and for its good mid-autumn colour.
Native to Spain, parts of Asia, Iran, and Turkey where they grow naturally in gravelly areas and in full sun, they tolerate a reasonably broad range of soils if they are well-draining and not too acidic. They also tolerate part shade. Apparently, they will vary in height, depending on the soil and light conditions, but they average about 10 cm tall. Related to amaryllis and snowdrops their leaves resemble snowdrop leaves and like many other members of the Amaryllis family, Sternbergia are relatively pest free and deer resistant. They are also hardy to about -2 degrees C (2 degrees F).
We planted them at the bottom of the dry riverbeds near the pond in 2018 and they are starting to naturalise gently. They bloom so late that each year we fear they have disappeared until the first one pops up followed quickly by the rest. And each year, they are an absolute delight.