Thursday, January 25, 2018

South African bulbs

Many of you are familiar with the beauty and petite charms of South African bulbs. I've written about them before but now, as the first of them are in bloom (mostly Lachenalia) and others soon to follow (Chasmanthe, Freesia, Sparaxis) I've decided to pull out some photos from my archives.
That said, enjoy a little winter color!

Lachenalia aloides 'Orange.' Aloides species are the most populous of all the Lachenalias. They are also often the first to bloom. Many feature pinks, reds and oranges. I'm not sure I see the 'orange' in this variety but I like the rosy-pink tubular flowers nonetheless.

This is a rare cross between the milky blue L. viridiflora and L. quadricolor. This cross was done by a local grower and as far as I know it's not commercially available. You can see the greenish-blue at the base then the pale yellow, green and purple as you progress towards the tips. This cross is also an early bloomer.

This Lachenalia tricolor is a very popular species. It's a reliable bloomer too, returning year after year. 

Babiana stricta. This baboon flower is known for two things - the purple or white flowers of course but also its pleated leaves. The leaves arrive first, forming a thick bunch and then flowering stems rise above this foliage in late February/early March. One of the least fussy of all South Africa bulbs, it doesn't need to be given a summer dry period (as Lachenalias do).

Ixia Buttercup. This lovely named variety of the colorful corn lily offers up creamy yellow flowers and contrasting burgundy centers. Ixias are tough, they come in many colors and they naturalize. For that reason I often lump them together with Sparaxis and Freesias.

Chasmanthe bicolor. This early blooming Cape native is one of the easiest bulbs to grow and naturalizes easily. Some might say 'too easily' but I have not had it escape its location and pop up everywhere. Hard to find in the trade but if you know anyone that has a stand you could easily remove a clump, pot it up and start your own colony.

Ferraria crispa. Sometimes called a 'spider iris,' I think a better evocation might be a sea star. Has those weird crinkly edges and the dots lead to the center 'mouth.' Definitely one of the oddest plants we can grow here in the Bay Area. 

Ferraria crispa ssp crispa. This subspecies has deep burgundy, almost chocolate centers and that makes for a lovely and yummy flower. Ferraria flowers look delicate but don't be fooled. The plants, once established, are vigorous and will colonize a bed (as mine have).

Believe it or not this gorgeous flower is a Gladiola. It's not one of the common hybrids available everywhere but a straight species from South Africa called Gladiolus alatus. It's hard to find and alas mine petered out a few years ago. Time to hunt for new ones.

Another South African glad is this G. Lemon Moon. Like most Cape gladiolas the flowers aren't large and they appear on thin arching branches. This variety has proved surprisingly sturdy for me.

This gorgeous flower is a Homoglad variety. Homoglads are a cross between Gladiolus tristis & Homoglossum watsonium and their Gladiolus parentage is quite apparent. Some now put Homoglads within the Gladiolus genus. 

Although this isn't a great photo, it's the only one I have of my long gone Moraea atropunctata. It's rare. The petals are an alabaster white and the radiating spots a chocolate color. It took 3 years to flower but it was worth the wait.

Ixia monadelpha. It's the pure white contrasted by the wine-colored centers that's the attraction of this species. 

Moraea villosa. This peacock moraea or peacock iris is everybody's favorite Moraea and one look tells you why.

Ornithogalum dubium. The dubium species offers a variety of yellows and oranges but this bright orange Star of Bethlehem is very popular. It has succulent leaves and produces masses of flowers in upright cones.

Sparaxis variety. Though there are a number of Sparaxis species, the common ones sold in mixed color packets all have a center ring that contrasts with the color of the petals. Flowers emerge from unusual papery sheaths, adding another element of intrigue.

This Sparaxis is a bit less common, with the center not providing as dramatic a contrast as most. That orange sherbet color is fab though.

Sparaxis grandiflora ssp grandiflora. This species demonstrates how different some sparaxis are from others. Here it's all about the burgundy colors.

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