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.

Caring for your Alstroemeria

It could be said that Alstroemeria are a bit like Goldfish. Such an easy pet. You just sprinkle a few flakes at them everyday and keep those air bubbles going and there you have it. Much ado about nothin’!

Well, in a similar way Alstroemeria are such vigorous bloomers they don’t need much encouragement to keep going and growing.

But how much care does an Alstroemeria really need?

Here are some guidelines to help you along:

Feeding

Alstroemeria are hungry little creatures, so regular weekly feeds through growing season from May to September is recommended and will encourage them to flower well and repeatedly. A high potash fertiliser is recommended such as our Alstroemeria Feed.

Mulching

All of the Alstroemeria plant varieties we grow are garden winter hardy but, for the first couple of winters while they are establishing, it will be best to mulch well to make sure your new plants are protected until they are well established and can get through the winter without any assistance.

Watering

Alstroemeria are reasonably drought tolerant but will need regular watering during the summer months. If your Alstroemeria are planted in containers these tend to dry out quicker so make sure to keep the ground moist but don’t over water.

Alstroemeria need free draining soil. This is essential for them to grow well and establish in the normal way. The root system doesn’t like to be waterlogged as this can cause the roots to rot and likely cause it to die.

Picking Flowers

Alstroemeria are fabulous flowers in a vase and can last many weeks. A few tips for picking your own Alstroemeria are as follows:

Pick 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.

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. This ensures that there are no pieces of stem left to rot which can cause fungal disease to build up on the root.

Pulling the flowering stem at the base and ripping it from the ground also encourages the plant to re-flower as it produces another bud under the ground. They‘ll then keep producing an endless supply of flowers for every vase in the home throughout the Summer.

It is best to allow the plant to become firmly established (so at least one Summer to pass after planting) until employing this method. You can still have fresh flowers by cutting them instead until the roots have had time to establish.

Dead heading

Once all the flowers in a cluster head have faded and died, remove the whole stem with a gentle tug, the same method as picking. This encourages further flower stems to sprout and keeps the plant looking neat and tidy. It also prevents it from wasting energy on producing seeds at the expense of more flowers.

 

So a little more care and maintenance than a Goldfish but totally worth it!

How to Plant your Alstroemeria

The Alstroemeria you ordered has just arrived at your door.

Now what?

Do you leave it in the pot it came in? Or pop it straight into the garden? Or in another pot?

Alstroemeria are quite easy-going plants. The most important thing is that they have a healthy root system when planted on.

If you’ve ordered your Alstroemeria from us it will come in a 9cm pot, ready to be potted on into a larger one and they are fast growers so will easily fill a 3 litre pot within 6-8 weeks in growing season.

Read on to find out how you can help your new Alstroemeria establish well and grow into a strong healthy plant that flowers from June to November.

In Containers

Alstroemeria are repeat bloomers through the Summer which makes them great choices for containers in the garden or a sunny balcony or patio. The short and Inticancha varieties such as ‘Noah’, ‘Little Miss Roselind’ and ‘Inticancha Navayo’ make fantastic container plants as they are nice and compact.

Here's how to get them in the pot:

  • Place some broken pottery ,tiles or gravel loosely at the bottom of your pot or container
  • Add good quality, fresh compost, mixing in some slow release fertiliser
  • Free-draining soil is essential
  • Place the well-watered plant onto the compost. Put more compost around it. The compost should finish level with the top of the rootball, 2-4cm below the rim of the new container (to allow for watering space)
  • Once in place, pat the compost down firmly but gently so as not to damage the stems – you want the plant to be secure but the compost should still be light and airy, not compressed too much
  • Water in lightly
  • Whenever the compost is getting a little dry give it a drink. If the very top of the compost is dry that’s healthy, but the compost needs to be moist around the roots
  • Remember to feed regularly once your alstroemeria starts flowering, use a liquid feed high in potash

In the Garden Border

Alstroemeria make wonderful border plants especially the medium and tall varieties such as ‘Marguerite’, ‘Pandora’ and ‘Apollo’.

Their rainbow colour selection make alstroemeria a bright, eye catching feature that will keep producing flowers for up to 4 months a year, flowering from early Summer into Early Autumn.

Here’s how to plant your babies into garden borders:

  • Mix fertiliser and organic matter into the soil around where you want to plant: bonemeal or blood fish and bone are good choices
  • Make a planting hole in this soil to the depth that the top of the plant’s root ball is level with the top of the soil
  • If the soil is dry, fill the empty hole with water and leave it to drain
  • Place the plant in the hole, filling around it with the soil and organic matter mixture. Add the plant and firm with your hands or a lightly applied foot
  • Water well, even if rain is forecast – this helps settle the soil
  • You can add a layer of mulch to help keep the roots moist but be careful not to let the mulch pile up against the stem
  • Water occasionally and thoroughly for a month or three, until the roots get established. Occasional deep watering is better than a frequent sprinkle.

 

Once you’ve followed these instructions for Alstroemeria in pots or in the garden, you’ll be guaranteed flowers ‘til the cows come home (or at least the first frosts in the Autumn).

Just make sure that when the cows come home your Alstroemeria aren’t in a place they can be trampled...

And please pop us a message on social media and let us know how your planting goes, we’d love to hear from you!