Take a trek across some of the more arid, rocky parts of South Africa and you might just be lucky enough to stumble across one of its native blooms: the pink-hued tubular delights of a flowering nerine.
Often described as a lily when really they’re barely related to that oft-overused plant, they actually resemble much more closely the appearance of one of our all time favourites, the amaryllis. They were named in fact by a British ‘amaryllis specialist’ (imagine putting that on your LinkedIn profile!), name of William Herbert, in 1820. Not merely a botanist of some renown, Herbert was one of those truly renaissance dudes who only seemed to exist really in the Victorian era, excelling at a ridiculous number of pursuits: he was also a successful poet, illustrator, member of parliament and cleric.
Anyway, luckily he found the time to popularise the nerine because, as we mentioned, it really is a great alternative to the lily. Cultivated in Europe since its initial discovery in the 1700s, its name is derived from the ‘nereids’ (or sea nymphs) of Greek mythology that would look out for sailors and their ships as they went about their business of - presumably - battling monsters and angering gods and listening to sirens sing at them. Herbert chose this name not because of any questionable physical resemblance but because (and the cynic in me would be inclined to dispute this a little bit…) a ship carrying the plant’s bulbs from South Africa to the Netherlands became shipwrecked. The boxes of bulbs however somehow survived, and floated off on their merry way to England by way of Guernsey. It is for this reason supposedly that the flowers first became cultivated in England and they have since become one of the very few plants grown here commercially that outperform its Dutch equivalents. Rule Britannia! Etc etc.