We have just had the first few light frosts. I am glad. Because we should have frosts. And it is slightly worrying, given the dreaded global warming, when we scarcely do. But conversely, their initial lightness has gradually eased the garden into colder conditions.

 I am also relieved because one of the most sculptural foliage plants in my borders at the moment is Zantedeschia aethiopica.This Lily of The Nile continues to grow and stay green all winter if my city garden stays frost free, which it sometimes does. (How picky am I? I want there to be frosts, but not in my garden!!)

 In fact here it is, ‘papped’ yesterday,  in one of my neighbour’s gardens, as exotic as any Cleopatra and thriving beside the muddy River Avon in a Bristol winter. The summer flowers-the archetypal white spathes – are great, but what I value is that it does this, now!


In fact, its family, Araceae, which also contains the well known ‘Lords and Ladies’, is a fascinating one.

 VP, recording a recent visit to Dunham Massey’s new winter garden on her great blog http://www.vegplotting.blogspot.com reminded me of the merits of Arum italicum. Here is my patch of it:


This quality, marbled foliage would bring interest to the front of any border which is a bit flat at this time of year. Imagine this juxtaposed with dark, lustrous, evergreen topiary.

Next summer I have the delights of Dracunculus vulgaris to look forward to – it is seriously stinky.


It lurks beside the compost heap, so any visits there when this is in flower are short and sharp.

The engaging character below is dubiously inspecting Helicociderous muscivorum, which I don’t grow mercifully.


Its spathe is mottled, hairy and deeply repugnant.  I once persuaded a fellow horticultural student to sniff it quite deeply-‘Jason, absolutely amazing smell this!’- and he practically keeled over! Some winter protection is necessary to grow this in southwest UK, but frankly I wouldn’t even go there.

And of course there are all the Arisaemas which can be deeply addictive. When I graduated from college I worked for people who were completely obsessed with them in the way that plant nuts can be. I grow Arisaema sikokianum (yes the name is unfortunate!) in the woody bit of the family garden in North Devon.

Arum proboscideum, with is long taled spathes is also intriguing. One could go on and on……….

 Google all these names for images and info.

 But whereas these do die right down for periods of the year, the fabulous Lily of the Nile is always strutting her stuff!