Now I am a very patient person as many of you know, particularly when it comes to plant propagation. However, I am also quite realistic and admit that sometimes there must be an easier way to acquire something. Case in point is the Star-of-Bethlehem. I tried probably three years on the trot to grow this from seed; the seed having been obtained from various seed distribution schemes but to no avail. As my RHS A-Z indicates the seed are best sown in Autumn they obviously need a cold period which isn’t always achievable with the timing of the seed distribution and in my limited experience I often find those plants that need cold for germination tend to do better if sown fresh – though that may be a coincidence.
I was therefore delighted to spot a pot of this plant when I went to the Crug Plant Fair and promptly snapped it up. The plant was destined for my newish woodland border and duly planted and as is often the case in my garden forgotten. I was having one of those days on Sunday when you feel a need to go back to bed and hide under the duvet until all the annoying things went away when lo and behold a glimmer of white was spotted from the upstairs window. I thought at first it was my Galtonia which have reappeared after their first winter and which I have high hopes for but no it was the Star-of Bethlehem.
Now I really shouldn’t keep calling this plant Star-of-Bethlehem as I will get complaints about using common names which can cause confusion and very true too. So to be clear I am referring to Ornithogalum umbellatum, you can see why Star-of-Bethlehem is easier to remember. The plant is a bulbous perennial and members of the Ornithogalum family can be found in a variety of habitats across Europe, Asia and Africa. Ornithogalum umbellatum is hardy in the UK liking full sun to partial shade; it prefers a moist to mesic (well-balanced) soil.
My faithful A-Z saysOrnithogalum umbellatumcan become invasive, well I would be thrilled if it spread into a reasonable size colony as the glimmering white racemes of star like flowers are delightful and really brighten the woodland border which is shaded by neighbouring trees. As you can see the flowers are quite well spread out along the stem which can grow to 10-30cm hence the awkward photograph. The leaves are similar to many bulbous plants being long linear and mid-green. One website I have read says that the flowers close at noon each day but it is currently 8:30 at night and the flowers are still wide open. It positively glows as the sun sets like most white flowers do in dark locations.
I will try to spot when the seed heads form and collect seed though no doubt due to the hours I am working at the moment I will miss the magic point. However, at the moment I shall be pleased that the plant reappears next year and then we shall see about increasing it.
If you like Camassia and Allium and want something similar for a more shady location I would recommend the Star-of-Bethlehem