GRANNY is a tad out of practice, but she delved into her memory banks to apply protection to a flower spike...

Gastropods found the emerging exotic flower spike irresistible and threatened to end the detective story of just what flowers would emerge.

Scroll through the gallery of pictures above to see more of squills...

But, with a plastic bag tied around the delicate part of the shaft, each night she worked her protective magic and now the beautiful white, green-veined florets have started to emerge, unharmed by the aggressive ‘slimers’.

Isle of Wight County Press: Richard's Greek flowering bulb.

Richard's Greek flowering bulb.

More than four years ago, on the island of Kefalonia, we rescued two mammoth bulbs from Greek roadbuilders, popped them in a pot and, each winter, all they did was produce increasingly large, fleshy, floppy, sword-shaped leaves.

Neither I, my gardening mates, the web or you, the readers — despite my appeal in this column — could identify just what the bulbs were.

But, now the masses of tiny flowers have started to bloom, it has been possible to confirm the bulbs are from the Drimia genus, which has the unusual habit of producing leaves early in the year that die off after giving a boost to the bulbs’ energy.

It then sends up a large flower spike, which, in its native lands, can be as tall as me — in this less sunny country somewhat smaller...

Drimia maritima is known by several common names, including squill, sea squill, sea onion and maritime squill. Red squill, as you may expect, produces red-tinged flowers.

Isle of Wight County Press: Squill in its native habitat.

Squill in its native habitat.

It is native to southern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. But over here, while it is obtainable from specialists, it remains uncommon.

Drimia, also known as Urginea maritima is quite hardy and, as the name suggests, likes coastal conditions.

It promises to be reliable in the warmer climes of the Isle of Wight. It loves a stony, rocky surrounding and enjoys basking in full sun, tolerating exposed conditions and poor, but well-drained soil.

Bulbs can weigh up to 2lb, will form in a clump and can also be propagated from seed, which can be harvested in autumn and sown the next spring.

I will plant a group in a new bed in the future, with an inch or so protruding from the surface, alongside Eremurus Robustus which can make an equally huge and similar statement in the garden, but flowering earlier — in midsummer.

This Foxtail Lily, otherwise known as Desert Candle, sends its long, soft, pink flower spikes up more than 6ft, from a rather unimpressive clump of foliage lying almost flat on the ground.

Robustus has hundreds of tiny pink-coloured blooms, opening gradually from the bottom up.

Eremurus now comes in a wide range of colours, produced not from a bulb, but from a star-shaped crown, much like asparagus.

Whether, like my squill, it will need Granny’s protective cover, is not yet known...


Raise pumpkins and squashes off the ground to prevent rotting. Place them on a piece of slate or wood. Feed weekly and keep well-watered.

Keep feeding and watering French and runner beans to keep them producing for as long as possible. Continue harvesting little and often to prevent them setting seed, unless you want to save some for next year.

Cover your brassicas with netting to prevent pigeons making a meal of them.

Pick off rotting fruits from pear, apple and stone fruit trees — they will spread disease if left on the tree.

Mow long grass under fruit trees to make it easier to spot windfall fruits.

Cover wall-trained peach trees to prevent peach leaf curl from taking hold.

The fungus needs wet conditions to infect the plants. 
Harvest plums. Freeze them by washing, halving and stoning, before laying them out on a tray in the freezer. Once frozen, pack them into freezer bags.

Are you an Isle of Wight gardener with a question for Richard? You can email him on