White Gloriosa in Harrods' Rarity Campaign

Harrods are currently hosting a Rarity Campaign, a celebration of the world's best products and experiences, featuring 87 rare finds from jewellery, interiors and beauty to food, wine and... Neill Strain's spectacular white Gloriosa flowers.  Following 20 years of dedication, patience and expertise, one Dutch grower has managed to produce 20 bulbs of white Gloriosa, one of the rarest flowers in the world.  Now available exclusively at the flower concession at Harrods, Neill explains the incredible story of this exquisite bloom.

White Gloriosa, featured in Harrods' Rarity Campaign

When Harrods asked me a few months ago if we had a truly rare flower worthy of inclusion in the Rarity Campaign alongside an 18-karat gold-plated Renaissance clock, a signature Rolex watch made of sapphires and diamonds, white pearls Almas caviar, a signed portrait of Albert Einstein, and more astonishing products and experiences, I immediately thought of White Gloriosa.  Gloriosa is a relatively new and exclusive bloom in the cut flower market, available in limited quantities of bright shades of red, pink, orange and yellow.  A few years ago I once saw a few stems of white Gloriosa which left me spellbound and I knew this would be the perfect Rare Find for Harrods. 

Dutch White Gloriosa "Maria" was first discovered in 2008

Why is White Gloriosa so rare?   Breeders in Holland today are making the most exquisite new flower varieties in hundreds of different colour variations, however, white is a shade they cannot create. Whether it's a Rose, a Lily or a Delphinium, the breeders have to wait for a natural mutation, an accident of nature, to produce the first white bloom from which they can then procure others. For decades, only the Japanese were growing White Gloriosa, in extremely limited quantities, and these plants were guarded like a national secret. In 2008, one Dutch grower discovered a Gloriosa plant that bore red flowers on one side of the plant and white on the other...  This was the birth of "Maria," the White Gloriosa we are now showcasing at Harrods.

The entire 2018 production of White Gloriosa "Maria" has been grown exclusively for Harrods Rarity Campaign

Gloriosa plants grow from a single tuber, also called a rhizome, and every year, after flowering, this single tuber becomes a double one which is split into two.  Our Dutch breeder and grower, Bennie Ruizendaal, realized that of the 2 tubers from each White Gloriosa plant, one would create red flowers and the other one would create white.  Since 2008, every year Bennie has collected the White Gloriosa tubers, some of which have sadly reverted to the original, dominant colour red. This is quite usual in nature and increases the rarity of the white tubers. Today, ten years later, Bennie now has 20 tubers of White Gloriosa which he has planted into 10 pots, producing approximately 10 flowers per plant, 20 per pot.  Bennie has allowed us to display these precious plants at our concession at Harrods and the stunning white flowers can be cut and designed for clients upon demand, allowing optimum freshness and the longest vase life (about 5-7 days). 

Single and double Gloriosa tubers. 

Gloriosa plants grow in the same way as Sweet Peas, i.e. they grow upwards on long, relatively thin, bendy stems and have tentacles, like vines, which they use to attach themselves to as they grow taller.  Bennie grows his Gloriosa in his glass house in the north of Holland and the plants reach an optimum height of about 3 meters.  Flowers start to bloom on the lower part of the plant and these blooms are sold with their short, fine stems of 15-30 cms.  The flowers on the top of the plant can be purchased with several flowers and a stem length up to 1m.  These are my favourite because they are so inspiring for design!  

Young Gloriosa plants growing, showing their tubers

Gloriosa growing in the nursery showing flowers in bud

Aisles of Gloriosa plants growing tall at the nursery

Our White Gloriosa plants are only 1m tall and you can see them now at Harrods at our concession.  Each tuber creates 10 flowers which open gradually, about 1 to 1 1/2 days apart, so the plant will be in bloom for 10-15 days. Gloriosa are sometimes known as Lilies although their flowers do not resemble the Asiatic or Oriental Lilies we know so well.  At first, the Gloriosa buds appear to grow upside down and as the petals open they point upwards creating a ball shape, leaving the filaments and the pollen-carrying anthers below.

White Gloriosa "Maria" in bud, with the petals facing downwards

"Maria" Gloriosa flowers opening with her white petals gradually elevating to a vertical position

"Maria" Gloriosa flowers opening with her white petals gradually elevating to a vertical position

"Maria" White Gloriosa showing tentacle which attaches onto a support for stability as the plant grows up to 3m tall

"Maria" White Gloriosa flowers blooming on the plant

Bennie and his family have been working with Gloriosa for 48 years and their exceptional flowers are renowned all over the world.  Bennie inherited his passion for Gloriosa from his father.  For twenty years, Bennie's father ran his own nursery of tomatoes and cucumbers. He acquired some Gloriosa tubers and his intrigue for them led to him to abandoning vegetables and dedicating his nursery solely to Gloriosa in 1970. 

Bennie Ruizendaal in his nursery dedicated solely to Gloriosa in north Holland

In 1988 Bennie started his own Gloriosa farm with plants from his father and it was 10 years later that the first white Gloriosa flowers suddenly appeared.  He named these precious flowers "Maria" after his mother, in tribute to all her hard work and support in his father's nursery.

Because the parent plant was originally red, there are sometimes touches of pale pink at the bottom of the white petals which tend to darken as the flower matures.  These features vary from plant to plant and on many occasions the petals have been pure white. 

White Gloriosa "Maria" flowering at Neill Strain Floral Couture exclusively for Harrods

The Harrods Rarity Campaign will run until the 16th August.  So we still have many plants that will bloom up until this date, after which we will return them to Bennie for flowering next year. 

Neill Strain Floral Couture concession at Harrods displaying the White Gloriosa "Maria"

Please don't miss this unique opportunity to see these extraordinary, rare flowers growing at our Harrods concession and even take one or more blooms home with you in a bespoke design!  Our trained staff are looking forward to assisting you and sharing the story of one of the world's most rare flowers. 

Florally yours,

Neill x