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Posts Tagged ‘South African Plants’

This week it has taken a turn for fall the sun shines and the nights are much cooler. Finally there are touches of color developing in the leaves of trees, in the next few weeks the show of yellow, red and orange will be at their peak here. Gardeners are starting to remove spent annuals and cut down yellowing and bedraggled perennials. Some grasses such as Miscanthus are blooming while others are finnished waitng for the winter rains. Several plants are blooming as it is coming into thier summer, these are some of the bulbs from South Africa. One of the most showy is Nerine bowdenii (Guernsey Lily) and how beautiful it is.

The pink coloring of Nerine bowdenii makes it a favorite flower amoung many who grow it.

The pink coloring of Nerine bowdenii makes it a favorite flower amoung many who grow it.

Nerines are all found in Africa with 23 0f the species found in South Africa. There is some confusion as to exactly how many species there ranging between 25 and 30. We do know the plant Nerine is named for the Greek word ‘Nereis’ for sea nymph. Bowdenii comes from Athelstan Hall Cornish Bowden (1871-1942) who was born in Devon and went on to become the Government Land Surveyor of the Cape Colony which later became South Africa. In 1903 he brought his namesake plant back to England.

The strap-like foliage of these Nerine bowdenii bulbs is blended in with Acorus leaves.

The strap-like foliage of these Nerine bowdenii bulbs is blended in with Acorus leaves.

Nerine bowdenii is considered to be the most hardy of the known Nerine species. This is because it was originally found high(3000m or nearly 10000 ft.) in the  Drakensburg Mountains in north Natal. There it flowers in February to May. It is often found growing in cracks of  the stony cliffs and where a little soil and leaf mold has accumulated over time.

Nerine bowdenii is perfectly planted in the stony outcropping of the 'Terrace Gardens' at Government House in Victoria.

Nerine bowdenii is perfectly planted in the stony outcropping of the 'Terrace Gardens' at Government House in Victoria.

Many South African plants are relatively new to gardening and have been thought to be more tender than they have turned out to be. Here in Victoria and in the southern corner of British Columbia we have a very similar climate to parts of South Africa and have been lucky to enjoy a wide range of interesting plants which grow there.  We have a mild winter which is damp and warm to hot summers with a prolonged drought which is perfect for many bulbs such as Nerine bowdenii.

This clump of Nerine bowdenii is in the dappled shade at Finnerty Gardens.

This clump of Nerine bowdenii is in the dappled shade at Finnerty Gardens.

Nerine bowdenii is a fairly easy and adaptable plant to grow. Plant the bulbs close together with part of the bulb exposed like it is found in the wild. Grow it in any rich soil with good drainage so the bulbs do not sit it overly wet soil for long periods. When planting bulbs it is a good idea to add some bone meal for development of strong healthy roots. It is said that this species of Nerine can take -10(14f) temperatures easily. If you live in a colder climate grow your plants in a container which you may choose to sink into the ground and lift late in the fall to over-winter inside.

The typical Nerine bowdenii floral scape has up to a dozen flowers which are usually in a pink shade.

The typical Nerine bowdenii floral scape has up to a dozen flowers which are usually in a pink shade.

Several named selects can be found of Nerine bowdenii which are in pink shades as well as a white form. This plant is about 60cm(2ft) tall and has proved to be an excellent long lasting cut flower. The strap-like foliage is similar to that of Agapanthus and is an attractive mid green color. Propagation is by division of the bulbs or planting the fleshy seeds as soon as they become ripe. From seed to blooming bulb takes up to 6 years.

The bright pink Nerine bowdenii flowers against the maroon shades of this foliage is quite spectacular.

The bright pink Nerine bowdenii flowers against the maroon shades of this foliage is quite spectacular.

Noticing Nerines:

Pacific Bulb Society page on Nerines: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/nerine

Wiki has a good page on Nerine bowdenii: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerine_bowdenii

Nerines in South Africa: http://www.bulbsociety.org/GALLERY_OF_THE_WORLDS_BULBS/GRAPHICS/Nerine/Nerineprimer.html

…………….Hope to see you near here soon…………………

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I have worked at several large nurseries over the years and the first was a large company which grew perennials. It was recommended I work there as it was the largest in Canada for that type of plant. I was not disappointed and learned a great deal from the vast array of plants they stocked on a regular basis. It was also interesting to see what plants they would introduce to this area of Canada which is by far the mildest and has the widest range of options. Many plants were new not to just me but in some cases to the rest of North America.  At that time many new plants were originating from New Zealand, South Africa and South America. One spectacular plant is the very late blooming scarlet red Schizostylis (Hesperantha)coccinea or Scarlet or Scarlet River Lily which is from the Drakensberg Mountain area of South Africa.

The spectacularly colored Schizostylis coccinea or Scarlet River Lily.

The spectacularly colored colored Schizostylis coccinea 'Major' or Scarlet River Lily.

Scarlet River Lilies have been known since 1864 when they were brought into cultivation in Europe. The area they come from is quite high up in the mountains 1500-2500m(4900-8200ft.). They also grow in very moist areas, beside stream banks and seasonal islands. It is felt that this is an adaption to their climatic situation which is part of why they have been reclassified to be listed as  Hesperantha coccinea. Other members of Hesperantha grow from corms and Schizostylis coccinea grows from rhizomes. ‘Schizostylis’ refers to the the flower being in parts of 3 which is common with all members of the Iris(Iridaceae) family. ‘Coccinea’ refers to it’s red  flower color which is how it is seen in the wild.

There are up to 30 color forms of Scarlet River Lily which range from pure white to deep scarl

There are up to 30 color forms of Scarlet River Lily which range from pure white Schizostylis cocccinea 'Alba' to deep scarlet.

In the wild Scarlet River Lilies live up to their color name and are good shade of red which works in many situations. Since being brought into cultivation many shades have become known and some are quite delightful. I first  became familiar Schisostylis coccinea with ‘Major’ with large red flowers, then,  ‘Sunrise’ which is coral pink and  Mrs. Hagarty which is a lighter pink color.

One of the pink forms of Schizostylis coccinea commonly seen in the Victoria area.

One of the pink forms of Schizostylis coccinea commonly seen in the Victoria area is 'Sunrise'.

As I noted Scarlet River Lilies normally live in moist areas and this feature makes them very useful in the gardens. It is hard to find such bright plants with attractive and disease resistant plants for boggy areas. I much prefer this plant to many of the Irises commonly used as they can become to aggressive. This plant is also easily adapted to other areas where there is adequate moisture in the soil.

A planting of Scarlet River Lillies in a broad border of mixed perenials ans shrubs at Governement House.

A planting of Scarlet River Lillies in a broad border of mixed perenials ans shrubs at Governement House.

When growing  the easy and adaptable Schizostylis coccinea, choose a sunny site for the best show of blooms. Soil should be rich and moisture retentive. Care must be taken to make sure they do not dry out  when they are setting their flower buds as they will be lost. Buds also can be damaged by early frosts. These plants take -10c(14f) and is rated at zones 7 through 10. I have seen them sited in mixed borders, at the base of sunny slopes and along water ways and next to informal ponds and pools.  They also can be used in mass plantings for long blooming fall color.

The clean damage free foliage of Schizostylis cocciniea at this late time of the year is a real bonus.

The clean damage free foliage of Schizostylis cocciniea at this late time of the year is a real bonus.

The overall effect of this plant is relaxed as the leaves and floral stems are often lax. Scarlet River Lilies make great cut flowers, I place the red form in my tall large dark blue glass vase for a wonderful effect. It is best when buying these plants to choose them when in bloom as I think there is quite a lot of mis-labeling happening.

Picture a vase overflowing with spikes of Scarlet River Lilies...beautiful.

Picture a vase overflowing with spikes of Scarlet River Lilies...beautiful.

More about Schizostylis coccinea:

How to grow them:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/3324532/How-to-grow-Schizostylis.html

Techincal information about why they have been reclassifed: http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/pbs/2003-February/001617.html

other members of the Hesparantha family: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/HesperanthaTwo#coccinea

Until We Meet Again Later….

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Growing up in the North, my experience with bulbs was limited. We could not grow many of the showy plants that came from bulbs or if we did we would have to dig them up and store them over the winter in the garage if we had one which did not freeze. This stopped many people from growing things like Gladiolas and other more showy and multicolored flowers. it is a pity. When I moved south to go to school I saw this incredible red orange type of tall sword leaved plant which looked like the for-mentioned Gladiolas. It was not that, but a fiery Crocosmia blooming during the hottest days of summer. Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is the most robust and showy of the bunch.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer': One of the most powerful of all colors in the garden.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer': One of the most powerful of all colors in the garden.

Crocosmia(often called Montbretia) are a species of bulbs which are found in South Africa which has an extraordinary array of species, said to be the most in any area in the world. This genus is very small with only 12 species being named. it was named in 1851 by Jules Émile Planchon, who was a well known botanist who spent most of his career at the University of Montpelier as well as as the Royal Botanical Gardens in London.  Crocosmia are from the Iris(Iridaceae) family and this is particularly reflected in the upright spiky foliage. Crocosmia are grown from corms just like their close cousins Crocus and Gladiolas.

A Perfect Planting of' Lucifer' Crocosmia in Brentwood Bay.

A Perfect Planting of' Lucifer' Crocosmia in Brentwood Bay.

There have now been an amazing 400 cultivars created with the best of them now fairly common throughout the world. They are easily reproduced from the corms which form chains of smaller ones which can be separated and grown into new chains or clumps. Crocosmias also set large amounts of fertile seed which is easy to germinate and grow into attractive new plants which will have bright red oranges to chrome yellows and every shade in between. Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is a selection which comes from Alan Bloom (1906-2005) who has named several other well known forms. Alan Bloom is a very important plantsman and over his career he introduced more than 200 new perennial cultivars into the gardens of the world from his nursery at Bressingham Hall  which later became the world famous Bressingham Gardens.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' gleaming in the long boarder at Playfair Park in Saanich.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' gleaming in the long boarder at Playfair Park in Saanich.

‘Lucifer’ is said to be hybrid of Crocosmia and Curtonus which are often lumped together. It is unclear if it is a true hybrid between two closely allied plant genera or just a cross between 2 or more species in the Crocosmia genus only.  One thing is clear though, Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is well named with it being the most brilliant of all colors. It also seems to be most vigorous  of the named Crocosmias I have seen; with the plants I photographed this week being as tall as me!

These Crocosmia 'Lucifer' at the same height as me.

These Crocosmia 'Lucifer' at the same height as me.

Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ is an easy chioce to add to your garden.  Crocosmia require average soil with medium moisture retention especially during their growing and blooming season which extends into later summer. To get an impressive show plant your corms in groups of 3 or more, about 3in( 7cm) deep, right side up.  They enjoy full sun to make their stems rigorous and strong. If they are happy new corms with form and clumps will expand and can easily be divided. When moving the plants it is important to make sure you get all the tiny corms which will reappear if not removed completely.  To keep them tidy, remove the spent flowers and cut off any browning foliage if it bothers you. Spider Mites are one pest which can be a problem here and can damage the foliage and flowers. They are hardy to -10c( 20f) and sailed through the winter here and look more spectacular than usual.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' looks smashing with many shades and shapes of foliage.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' looks smashing with many shades and shapes of foliage.

Crocosmias are stiff upright plants which work well in the back of boarders as well as used in mass plantings as you have seen. They often are used as specimens because they are so showy and standout from other plants at this time of the year. They look great with many other foliage plants and you can play with the flower colors. I like seeing white Shasta Daisies with Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ because the whites are whiter and the red looks even more potent.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' makes an attractive cut flower.

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' makes an attractive cut flower.

More on Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ and others.

Species Crocosmia and what thier is to know about them.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crocosmia

Growing Crocosmias.  http://www.mobot.org/gardeninghelp/plantfinder/Plant.asp?code=H680

Bressingham gardens and the Blooms family http://www.bressinghamgardens.com/familyhistory.php

Alan Bloom who all plant lovers should know. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Bloom_(plantsman)

Until We Meet Again Later in the Week…..

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