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Borde Hill sees planting of regal Persian and Asian bulbs

300 Fritillaria imperialis ‘Rubra’, commonly known as crown imperial, are set to wow visitors to the newly designed Italian Garden at Borde Hill Garden in West Sussex.

The plant, related to the lily, has large and bright orangey-red bell-shaped flowers, blooming in late spring. Native to the mountainous regions of Turkey, western Iran and Kashmir, fritillarias are a favourite of Eleni Stephenson Clarke, the current custodian at Borde Hill Garden.

Eleni says:

“I wanted to make a real statement in the Italian Garden this year. There’s nothing more eye-catching than fritillarias in the spring. With the help of our head gardener Andy Stevens, we have planted the fritillarias with 200 purple Globemaster alliums.”

Andy Stevens said:

“These regal fritillaria bulbs are amazing. They’re the size of a squashed tennis ball and have the energy to produce plants which grow to a metre in height and also deliver these large bell-shaped flowers. I have never grown them on this scale before. But, I think they’re going to look stunning in the formal beds of the Italian Garden planted alongside the 200 Globemaster alliums.”

Borde Hill, situated in the high Weald in West Sussex, has fertile clay soil. Crown imperials enjoy fertile, well-drained soil with good light, but will grow in partial shade.

Andy Stevens says:

“When we were planting the bulbs we took great care as they are rather fragile. We prepared large planting holes to accommodate the deep root system. Mixing in well-rotted compost was a good idea as was the addition of some grit at the bottom of the planting hole to reduce the chance of the bulb rotting. We planted the bulbs 25 cm deep to ensure successful flowering. It’s a good idea to mulch around the stems and you can apply a high potash feed as the foliage begins to come out.”

Borde Hill have selected the fritillary variety called Fritillaria imperialis ‘Rubra’.

Allium, ‘Globemaster’ is a large specimens with grey-green foliage and a huge globe cluster of violet-purple flowers on a single stem, which rises to 80cm in height.

The Italian Garden at Borde Hill was a tennis court, now transformed into an Italianate design in 1980. It has recently been replanted and styled by Eleni Stephenson Clarke and Andy Stevens. The geometric design is eye-catching and is a favourite place for visitors at Borde Hill.

The Italian Garden sits between Paradise Walk, full of perennials, designed by James Alexander Sinclair, and the Round Dell newly designed by Sophie Walker. It contains palms planted by the Col Stephenson Clarke in the early 1900’s as well as many plants collected by Crûg’s Sue and Bledwyn Jones in recent years.

Borde Hill Garden is open to the public from 25 March to end of October.

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