A native of South Africa, Galtonia candicans is a bulbous late summer-flowering perennial displays waxy, white bell flowers, tinged with green, dangling from an upright stem. They are happiest in a sunny spot and are frost hardy down to -10°C.
Common names for this plant are summer hyacinth and spire lily. Dark green, strap-like foliage and the tall fragrant spikes of flowers are especially dramatic planted with darker foliage or flowers.
Here at Rosemoor, we love the way Galtonia candicans AGM combines with almost anything that likes the same conditions. Although it grows quite tall i.e. 1-1.2m (3-4ft), this plant needs full sun and is best towards the front of the border.
In the Long Border, the strappy leaves provide a striking contrast with the serrated lance-shaped leaves of Symphyotrichum cordifolium 'Silver Spray' (which flowers a little later) and Veronicastrum sibiricum. The elegant lavender blue spires of Veronicastrum contrast well with the white bells of Galtonia in July and August and the dark green of the yew hedge makes an effective backdrop. The jagged, dark green leaves and plumes of the flowerheads of Artemisia lactiflora AGM contrast in form with those of the Galtonia, but have harmonious flower colours.
Plant for contrast
Elsewhere, G. candicans has been combined with Hemerocallis, Alstroemeria, Crinum and Agapanthus, which have similar leaves, but contrasting flower shapes and with colours that make the white of the Galtonia shine out. Plant with dark-leaved shrubs such as Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' AGM as we have done on the retaining wall beds. In the Spiral Garden it grows through the fine foliage of Symphyotrichum ericoides 'Rosy Veil' with the grey-green finely divided leaves of Santolina and Helichrysum italicum (curry plant) placed in front.
The steeply sloping Croquet Lawn border features many plants from South Africa, including, of course Galtonia candicans. Here we have also planted others of the same genus including G. princeps, G. regalis and G. viridiflora where they mix happily with Agapanthus, Berkheya and Alstroemeria.
If you can provide well-drained soil in a sunny spot, this plant will grace any border and will combine well with almost anything you would like to try.
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Plantsman Graham Rice chooses 10 of his favourite flowering perennials
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