One of the glories of the Algarve winter is the appearance over the Christmas period of the paperwhite Narcissus. This fragrant bulb provides multi- bloom heads of star like small white flowers. Narcissus papyraceus is the Algarve native which is frequently seen in damp ground, along stream banks and amongst rocks in the Barrocal. It is familiar as the bulb sold for forcing into flower in time for Christmas but grows well in Algarve gardens, being the ideal candidate for dry gardening, bulbs give of the their best over the winter and then disappearing for the hot summer months.
Another wonderful winter native flower is the clematis which is dormant all summer, some would say ugly and dead looking ! Clematis cirrhosa produces small green shiny finely divided fern-like leaves in response to the first autumn rains but is normally evergreen in northern gardens. The flowers swiftly follow, small creamy flowers with maroon spotting to varying degrees and prolific all along the climbing stems. Silky seed heads add to the show later on. It is believed that this was introduced into gardens in Great Britain as early as about 1590 and it was grown by John Gerard of ’Herbal’ fame.