This is the White asphodel (Asphodelus albus) a plant which is found in the wild from southern Spain to the Balkans. It’s a bee-friendly, garden-worthy, uber-rarity with lots of mediterranean charm. I first grew the White Asphodel twenty five years ago for a client who’s garden I had been tasked to develop based around on the flora of Corsica. At the time I was inspired by its candelabra-like spires of bee-attracting flowers. These gave a long display (at least six weeks), and were eventually replaced with interesting brown seed pods. Unfortunately, this delightful plant is rarely seen for sale, certainly never in UK garden centres, but its also hard to track down online.
So I was very pleased when four years ago whilst visiting the Beth Chatto Gardens – a place of pilgrimage for plantsmen – I was able to pick up a couple of young plants in 10cm plastic pots. For a couple of years I nurtured these in larger plastic pots as I didn’t have anywhere to plant them. Amazingly they survived! (Keeping plants healthy in pots for more than one season is always touch and go in my experience)
Then two years ago we completed the white-themed Lawn Garden, which has a long south-east facing border – ideal for mediterranean plants – in front of the greenhouse (see pic to left taken in April this year). So finally the Asphodels got a permanent home.
The first year they spent getting their roots down, only producing some healthy rosettes of glaucous sword-like foliage, but no flowers. I had been a little concerned about how they would survive the latest winter which was quite cold at times, but they proved more than able to take a few degrees below zero. In early spring, however, the foliage emerged stronger than last year, and clearly they must have been happy sending up five sturdy flower spikes in April. For some unknown reason one of these died off almost straight away, but the other four have put on a remarkable display.
If you want to grow the White Asphodel, give it a sunny, warm spot, fairly free-draining (certainly not waterlogged). Soil should preferably be alkaline but it will grow in neutral pH like mine.
Enjoy the photo gallery below:
Foliage and new shoots (April 22nd)
Foliage and new shoots (April 23rd)
Flower Spikes (May 19th)
Close-up of Flowers (May 21st)
The bright copper pollen and distinctive brown stripe down the centre of each petal combine with the fleshy, semi-transparent white to give the flowers a unique almost etherial quality.