British Alstro

Now is as good a time as any to be proudly British.

Because, why not?

Also, with more interest in buying local and supporting smaller, homegrown companies closer to where we live, why not add Alstroemeria to that list?

British Grown

Some of us may remember a time when 90% of the flowers supplied in the UK were British grown. We were all going along swimmingly until a fuel price hike in the UK and Dutch government subsidies turned the tables in the 1970’s.

Up until a few years ago, the percentage of British grown flowers sold in the UK was less than 15%. And 90% of that was going to the supermarkets. But that is starting to change.

Although Dutch flower companies have been one step ahead in the flower industry since the 70’s, government subsidies have recently started being phased out which is having a impact on their production.

With many campaigns encouraging greater enthusiasm for British flowers, the demand for British grown flowers is steadily growing.

If you’re in England and buying Alstroemeria grown in British soil, there’s no doubt you’ll be getting a better quality plant. It makes sense to buy plants that don’t have to travel for weeks to get to your door.

Think about how we humans often feel after travelling a few hours on a plane.

Not a pretty sight...

British Bred

Although Alstroemeria originate from South America the first new varieties were bred in Spalding, Lincolnshire by plant breeder John Goemans, becoming known as 'the father of alstroemeria’. He was the first in the world to grow Alstroemeria commercially under glass, introducing the first Alstroemeria variety specifically intended for glasshouse growing in 1959.

By the late 60’s breeding really took off with his launch of pink ‘Ballerina’ - the first of about 50 new varieties he developed over the years for the garden and cut-flower industry. This led to Alstroemeria becoming one of the major glasshouse grown cut flower crops in the world today. In 2018 John Goemans’ company 'Parigo' was taken over by Alec White of Primrose Hall Peonies, where the growing and breeding continues.

There are now about 250 different varieties of alstroemeria available in Britain. We grow over 200 varieties on our 8 acre nursery based in rural Bedfordshire, including original British bred Parigo varieties (such as ‘Apollo’, ‘Friendship’ and the ‘Little Miss’ series), the ‘Colorita’ (‘Princess’) series, ‘Inca’ series, ‘Planet’ series and Inticancha collection. Some of our favourites are ‘Rock ‘n Roll’ and ‘Colorita Fabiana’ with their beautiful and unusual variegated leaves.

Alstroemeria are marvelous because of their comparatively long vase-life (up to 2-3 weeks) and have a long, prolific flowering season.

And strong stems & long bracts make British grown alstro a first prize choice. Also, known as a ‘dry’ and a ‘cool’ crop, they require very little watering or heating.

So they are a sustainability win too!

Gives us reason to be even more proudly British.

And that’s why we love ‘em.

Alstroemeria as Cut Flowers

Spring is just about springing and we are looking forward to enjoying the joy of Spring soon!

If you have Alstroemeria in your garden right now or perhaps some overwintering snugly in a pot in your greenhouse, all those fresh new shoots are getting ready to jump out the ground as we speak! And once they get going again you can pick, pick, pick away for months and they’ll just keep giving you more and more flowers.

For cut flowers the taller varieties of Alstroemeria go a LONG way. Those with 60cm+ stems have a stately, elegant look that’s just perfect for the vase. If you have some tall varieties in your garden right now such as Alstroemeria 'Friendship', ‘Bauge’ or ‘Lucca’ you can look forward to gathering up some great cut flowers over the next few months.

For Beautiful Cut Flowers

One thing to note is that they won’t be ‘cut’ flowers. Technically speaking, instead of cutting you’ll be doing more picking, plucking or (what feels like) ripping.

You’ll want to get hold of the stem about halfway down and give it a gentle twist followed by a sharp tug which will pull out the stem.

It will feel a bit like you’re hurting your Alstroemeria but never fear! They love it!

This encourages more flowering and makes sure there are no pieces of stem left to rot which can cause fungal disease to build up on the root.

You’ll want to pick them at the point when the buds are not yet open but have colour and looking ready to pop. They will last longer in the vase if picked at this point.

Unlike earlier hybrids, many of the recently bred varieties flower for months, repeat flowering multiple times during the season from March/April to October/November in the UK. Most importantly, the newer cultivars iwll not rampage through your garden. So keep picking, tugging or, indeed, ripping and they’ll keep rooting, growing and shooting up more and more blooms.

By choosing a reliable variety and taking good care of it you can enjoy flowers from the same plant for 20 – 30 years!

Ideally your alstroemeria was planted late last summer for it to be ready for picking this spring. If you planted them around the end of August they will have had the whole of autumn and winter to establish their roots so they can withstand the rigours of the picking action described above.

Putting them in a Vase

  • Remove leaves that will be under the water. This will reduce the bacteria formation in the water which will extend the vase life, but leave some leaves above water as they help the plant to draw the water up
  • Cut about 2cm off the stems at an angle whilst immersed in water as they will then absorb water immediately. Alternatively you can dip the stems in a hydrating solution after trimming and before putting them in the water which will open the cells and lengthen vase life
  • Use flower food in the water and change the water, giving the stems a fresh trim every 2 days
  • Position in a cool place away from direct sunlight and drafts

 

These are a few of our favourite ‘tugged’ flowers (pictured right) blooming from Jun – November, all of which enjoy a sheltered position in part shade or full sun:

Indian Summer

Copper-orange golden yellow with dark, almost black, foliage

Height: 70cm

Etna

Deep red with a yellow throat

Height: 90cm

Evening Song

Burgundy-red with yellow marking and dark streaks

Height: 70cm

Dana

Soft pink with a blush and yellow speckled throat

Height: 70cm

Maze

Pure white

Height: 80cm

Bonanza

Bright pink flowers with flecked, yellow-marked inner petals

Height: 90cm

Friendship

Cream with yellow speckled throat

Height: 60-120cm

Pandora

Lovely deep purple/mauve

Height: 90cm