William Robinson

Gardening Women Tip of the Week: Growing Schizostylis coccinea (1897)


I'd love to have this South African bulb brightening up a corner of my autumn garden. Next year I'll give them a try taking into consideration these tips from Mrs C W Earle.

Schizostylis_coccinea__Jennifer_

"October 18th - I have at least succeeded in flowering the Schizostylis coccinea. I am relieved to see that in the new edition of the 'English Flower Garden' [William Robinson] this is pronounced a great difficulty in a light dry soil. It is probably owing to the very wet autumn we have had that these little Cape bulbs have done so well. They were planted in fairly good garden soil, under the protection of shade of a wall facing east; so they did not get much sun except early in the year, when at rest; and when they began to grow, they were watered till the rain came. When the flower-spikes began to colour and nearly open, as the nights were very cold, I cut them and put them in a water in a warm room, and they bloomed quite well. Two or three sticks as a support, and mats or newspaper thrown over them, help these late-flowering plants in prematurely cold weather, which often lasts only a day to two.'

Mrs C W Earle is one of my favourite female gardening authors who is regularly overshadowed by her contemporary, Gertrude Jekyll. Her first book, Pot-Pourri from a Surrey Garden, is full of practical advice and wisdom. It has been reprinted many times, the last time being by Summersdale in 2004. There is a story, which may be apocryphal, that her husband offered her £10 not to publish the book. Tragically, and quite unrelatedly, he was killed in a cycling accident a week after its publication. Most likely, she did not need the freedom of widowhood to carry on writing but she did and brought out several more books in a similar vein. Although the 2-acre garden in Surrey she created was never famous, Mrs Earle remains a key figure through her writing.