by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa
I first saw Alstroemeria - what are those flowers - in my father's wreath 25 years ago. Delicately beautiful lilies, petals intricately patterned, and an unknown flower made a fresh and lasting impression.
Since I prefer to use indigenous plants in my garden, it was never something I chose for our garden. Fast forward to the False Bay garden where I am working my way thru removing the unwanted plants among those I inherited. Inca lilies, exotic, are out. But wait. When we moved here in November 2014 it was the Inca lilies that gave me a vase for our new home.
Between sun and shade, cell phone and camera, the colour changes, but mine are a salmony flesh-eating pink - which I am learning to accept, if not exactly like.
The original clump was behind the lemon tree, where I am working towards blue (or purple) and white flowers for Cornish Stripe. I yanked out everything I could get at and looked for a generous space to move them to. One of the new raised beds needed filling.
Again fast forward. I have a gazillion long stalks, the first few flowers, the second round of buds coming, and almost every green stalk will bear a flower. An embarrassment of Inca lilies. I see great bunches in my future!
I prefer plants which are, if exotic, at least from our mediterranean climate and waterwise. Where, I now realise, the Inca lilies fit into South American Chile, a companion to my lemon verbena. Quite dormant and invisible in summer, they emerge with the rain, and bloom for months. Years before I had Alstroemeria, I read that one should gently tug out from the base faded bloom stalks.
Recently I found detailed maps from the Pacific Bulb Society of the range of mediterranean climates worldwide. Including an Asian bit which doesn't appear on my sidebar map. From there come tulips and fritillaries (in deserts which are very cold, then dry in summer). Our huge diversity of endemic bulbs means that South Africa's Cape Floral Kingdom splits up into varied climate zones. A whole new layer of information for me to work thru.
From wet in Hout Bay (once were forests) to Cape Town and Stellenbosch. Hopefield, Caledon and Ceres merely damp. Clanwilliam is dry. Saldanha, Worcester (succulent botanical garden) and are moderate desert. Port Nolloth, Vanrhynsdorp and Springbok (Namaqualand) are extreme desert.
We have a friendly temperate climate in Cape Town (Kirstenbosch), Hout Bay, Hopefield, Clanwilliam, Saldanha and Port Nolloth. Cool in Stellenbosch, Caledon (near the apple orchards), Worcester and Vanrhynsdorp. Finally cold Ceres (snow and cherry orchards), Nieuwoudtville (Hantam botanical garden) and Springbok. Frigid is off the chart for South Africa.
Cape Town slots in with Perth and Lisbon on that Pacific Bulb Society chart.
Alstroemeria grows from a rhizome. I may be haunted by persistent plants from 'where I dug them all UP'. Mine has very long stems making them versatile in the vase. My sixth choice among Discovered Treasures follows the Septemberbossie. Only on the computer do I see that the petals are very finely serrated!
Joining me in my Dozen for Diana is Pam from the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania with her anise hyssop.
Battling to spell Alstroemeria but Wikipedia tells me - 'the genus was named after the Swedish baron Clas Alströmer (1736 – 1794) by his close friend Carl Linnaeus'. Swedish, no wonder I can't spell it.
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