Gardening / In praise of ‘naked ladies’!

Belladonna lilies… they relish full sun for the bulbs to ripen.

BIG, bold and beautiful is the only way to describe belladonna lilies presenting their huge flowers at this time.

Cedric Bryant.

Still referred to by many as “naked ladies”, a name that has survived generations, the botanically correct name is Amaryllis belladonna.

It is one of the largest bulbs and, equally, one of the hardiest. Often used to line driveways, along with agapanthus, on country properties, they almost thrive on neglect.

They relish full sun; indeed, they need full sun for the bulbs to ripen and are extremely drought resistant.

The pink variety has been traditionally the most popular, but with modern plant breeding other colours are available from pure white, creamy white and one that is described as solferino-purple (a deep pink).

Bulbs can be transplanted in late summer/autumn or after flowering and only partially buried with the neck protruding or even half the bulb above the ground.

Echinacea… the secret for successive flowering over a long period is deadheading.

EQUALLY stunning at this time is Echinacea purpurea, the common purple coneflower. Once again, with plant breeding, this is now available in a wide variety of colours such as the deep orange shown here.

I tried growing Echinacea several times without success, surviving one season and then dying. I put this down to too much shade and tried again last year with spectacular success in full sun all day.

And by way of a reminder: I always suggest planting in groups of three, five or seven for the best visual effect. Now, with self-seeding, I have a group of more than 15-20, as pictured here!

Echinacea is a member of the daisy family native to eastern and central US. The name comes from the Greek “ekhinos” meaning hedgehog, referring to the spiny central disc, very similar to sunflowers.

Sunlovers… the brilliant orange coneflowers.

Like belladonnas they are drought tolerant and the secret for successive flowering over a long period is deadheading. Almost immediately new shoots and more flowers will appear.

The North American Indians used extracts for medicinal purposes and this has continued to this day, although I suggest you have a discussion with your doctor before using Echinacea for this purpose. It is the perfect plant for honey bees and to attract butterflies. Most garden centres now have them in stock in various colours.


  • Don’t put tea bags, avocado skins or fruit stones (i.e. peach stones) into the compost heap, they don’t break down.
  • March is caterpillar time. Eliminate them with Yates Dipel, a natural bio-insecticide, non-toxic to humans.
  • Harvest pumpkins by cutting off and leaving a length of stalk. Pour paraffin wax (the same for sealing pots of jam) to seal the other end from air to stop rotting off.
  • It’s a good time to enrich the veggie bed with the proceeds of your compost heap and plant English spinach seedlings.

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