More precious than rubies
by Diana Studer
- 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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