06 July, 2016

More precious than rubies

- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Imagine a tiny virtual garden, just big enough to sit in. I'm not a dedicated minimalist, more of a hoarder. One of my hoards is indigenous bulbs, many grown from Kirstenbosch seed over the years. In the Western Cape we begin to see drifts of white rain daisies -- what we call spring flowers, but of course we are still locked in the grip of winter. Chilly! My garden thoughts turn to spring when the lush succulent leaves of Lachenalia rubida begin to fill pots. Following May's electric pink Nerine.

All Lachenalia rubida pictures are
from July 2012 in our Porterville garden

Then the flowers emerge, sparkling like rubies, lighting up the garden. This Lachenalia is somewhat larger, more in your face than the other species – whose slender leaves and flowers are carried much nearer the earth. (I battle to spell LachEnalia, must remember it is named for the Swiss botanist Werner de Lachenal (1736-1800).

Lachenalia rubida in a pot

I prefer to keep my indigenous bulbs in pots. Tiny bulbs would be lost in the garden. But rubida spreads with abandon, so most are now in the pockets of the front garden's terrace wall. In Porterville they were in the planters beneath the ash trees.

Large Lachenalia rubida leaves with
slender Freesia alba leaves for a sense of scale

As the Porterville summer drew to a close, and my thoughts turned to coolth and winter rain it was the lush leaves of Lachenalia rubida that reassured me, the garden would green again. While I grow the plant for the flashes of red, the leaves are just as appealing to me. For Pam @ Digging's Foliage Followup. And Gail @ Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday.

Lachenalia rubida

Part of the hyacinth sub-family within the asparagus family (with your scilla, bluebells and hyacinths, and our Galtonia, Eucomis, Albuca, Ornithogallum, Drimiopsis and Veltheimia in my garden!), the flowers are fleshy with luminous colour. There are two sets of three petals. The outer is simply ruby, the inner with filigree bands of colour which set the merely red on fire.

Lachenalia rubida
a single flower

Lachenalia rubida
detail from previous photo

In a predominantly green and serene garden, these bulbs bring seasonal interest. In 2013 for July I chose Cotyledon orbiculata. Look around your garden, what came with you, and will go to the next garden? What plant is essential in your garden for your happiness? Which is your one bulb? What is the jewel in the crown of your July garden? My Dozen for Diana plant is a week early for July as I approach a blog break mid-month.

Beth at PlantPostings in Wisconsin enjoys an Apache Plume from the Four Corners (near my niece in New Mexico)
Donna at GardensEyeView in Upstate New York chooses Wild Bleeding Heart - flowers with a uniquely unusual shape! 

Green Lachenalia 2007

Turquoise Lachenalia 2009
This one survives in a pot

White Lachenalia 2006

Turquoise as a mermaid’s tail. Lachenalias come in all the colours you can think of (red, yellow, orange, white, pink and purple), some you didn't expect (turquoise, green, almost blue, fierce salmon pink), and even combinations of both! Deep orange, yellow, with green tips and inner petals yellow with purple tips – and that is all on ONE flower. My Mickey Mouse Lachenalia aloides seems to have gone. The leaves are usually spotted, or lime with the yellow flowers, purple with the darker flowers, and I have had one with striped leaves.

From ruby flowers to red tea. Rooibos tea grows on the mountain slopes around Clanwilliam, where the Cape mountain leopards roam.

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Pictures by Diana Studer
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25 comments:

  1. Your Lachenalias are lovely! I have a weak spot for turquoise flowers at the moment; yours is wonderful! I adore bulbs, and it has been a major disappointment that so many of the bulbs I thought would grow here simply don't like desert conditions after all. So now I am trying to learn what will... I'd love to find that Lachenalias would grow here!

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    1. Sonora Desert ... put them in pots in dappled shade. Expect flowers in winter, after autumn rain (or 'mediterranean' watering)

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  2. That rubida is really wonderfully named, as it is very red! If only it will grow in our hot tropics!

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  3. Your Lachenalias are indeed more precious than rubies. They seem like the types of blooms that hummingbirds would go for. Thanks for hosting the meme!

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  4. I've seen Lachenalias a few times in posts by a Northern California blogger but I've yet to find these bulbs for sale locally. You can bet I'll snap some up if I ever come across them.

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  5. Yes, your Lachenalias are lovely...the sunshine makes them light up like candles. I will have to think about what plant is essential in the garden for my happiness, I love them all, but I always take fuchsias with me because I think they won't manage without me!

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    1. Blue Oxford and Cambridge and the lime tree - were two I dug up - their chances are better with us. Both plants are enjoying their new home!
      Fuchsia is a plant I found in the new garden.

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  6. Oh I do adore a flash of unexpected colour and in your face pinks and reds are amazing! This is a stunner of a plant. Your garden is a treasure trove - always so interesting and developing. Love it. Turquoise flowers too - it's mind boggling. Our garden's are mainly green and dark red, very calming and kind to my eyes, with the white walls for contrast but around the corner we have a tea garden and there is the pink camellia, the violet crocuses, the bright white azalea, the red azalea, and the palest lilac wisteria (all at different times) - it's my secret colour burst area :)

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    1. How delightful to have a choice of serene green or flashing colour.

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  7. Ooh, ruby flowers are lovely, but turquoise are even better! Such a rare color for flowers. -Jean

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  8. They are lovely - but sadly they are too tender for our gardens here in the UK, I think.
    I especially like the glowing red ones, but that turquoise one appeals, too - in colour it reminds me of honeywort (Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens').
    All the best :)

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    1. I covet Cerinthe! - but I am trying to turn our garden towards indigenous. Cerinthe is the right climate, from the Mediterranean. And I have only seen that growing in English gardens.

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  9. I don't have the cash for rubies abd the very handsome Lachenalia would not grow in our garden,never mind, I will enjoy yours.
    I had just been thinking as to how I kind of miss blotanical, it was a bit of a palaver but it didnt half make me take blogging more seriously.
    Havent got a clue why I am mentioning this to you, I guess you make me think of those times.

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    1. half of my commenters on this post go back to Blotanical roots. We miss it. So much harder to launch a new blog without that welcoming circle.

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  10. Just read Alistair's comment. I also miss the days of Blotanical!
    The ruby colored Lachenalia is wonderful, but I am equally smitten by the turquoise one.

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  11. Luminous indeed. Like little light bulbs.

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  12. Gorgeous. I visited Kirstenbosch years ago, I loved it.
    Amalia
    xo

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  13. Lachenalia is a new plant to me, beautiful colour and the way the flowers grow.
    My garden is still full of pots I took with me from my previous garden, I have a planting break while the soil is too hard to dig in and will continue in the autumn. I only kept a few of the larger shrubs and trees that were here from before, the rest are plants I took with me from my previous garden. What will come with me to my next garden? I hope this will be my forever-garden! But if I had to move again I would do the same as last time, take with me as much as I could possibly lift and dig up, and hope for the best. I have a relationship to every single plant and bulb in my garden, many of which I have raised from seed, cuttings or divisions, leaving any behind was hard :-)

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    1. I know that if there is a fourth garden in my life ... it will be tiny. Those would be exceedingly hard choices to make. I couldn't do what I did, from first to second, and second to third. Still, like you, surrounded by pots waiting to go IN.

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  14. All of those Lachenalia's are wonderful those red ones are so bright and cheerful and the blue one such an unusual shade, what a shame we can't grow them here. Sarah x

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  15. Fascinating to see a plant we don't grow here. Always interesting to learn about bits of new botany.

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  16. I'm still enchanted by your Lacnebalia especially rubida. I found that these are part of the hyacinth family which do not do well here. How long a dormancy if any is needed? And how cold? I am at 34 north latitude and winter never gets below freezing.

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    1. In our mediterranean climate the bulbs are dormant (dry, protected from rain or irrigation) in summer. We don't get frost.

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  17. Love your July pick. Mine was hollyhock.Seem to have missed each other lately -- I've been visiting but not commenting. P. x

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