Monday, July 3, 2017

Slow progress, chapter 982

I'm only kidding, this isn't really chapter 982, but it is slow progress. I'm just trying to scare off those online gardening browsers whose attention span can only deal with 20 words at a time. You see, what I'm doing right now is using my blog as a diary, just updating the record on how things are going in a very long-term project to raise some flowering beauties from seed. 

Regular readers will be almost sick of this photo by now, but if you're new here, welcome to the wonderful world of Scadoxus, a spring-flowering bulb from South Africa which is the star attraction in our garden when it puts on its show each September.

Right now, our Scadoxus are almost dormant here in midwinter Sydney. No flowers at all, no leaves in fact, just some encouraging signs of growth from the bare older bulbs, which poke out above the ground.

Pictured above, this is what I mean. That red-topped point on this mature bulb will start to shoot up in August to become an 18-inch long, thick green stem, topped by a fist-sized flower head that then takes its own good time to open, usually a few weeks.

Once the fabulous razzle-dazzle of that orange bloom ends, the rest of summer is all green foliage down below, topped with a straggly, messy tangle of fading filaments covering the developing green seeds, only some of which have been fertilised by the bees.

By midsummer some of the once-green berries turn red, to show they're ripe, and that's when I have been picking them and potting them up for the last two years. Around the same time last year I posted about the progress up to that point, and today it's time for the potted up babies, who have grown handsomely, to be transplanted into the ground.

This is one of the babies, from a pot that is just one year old. A small but perfectly formed little Scadoxus bulb.

The two-year old pot was decidedly root-bound, and at first I thought I had blundered. However, with some very gentle wriggling and coaxing I managed to break them all up into half a dozen separate bulbs, each with its own tangle of thick roots firmly attached.

There's seven new bulbs from the two-year-old pot, and five from the one-year-old pot. I think leaving them in the pot two years was a bit of a boo boo, especially as the pot was small, and the one-year-old bulbs seem quite viable. The sooner they get into their natural home in the garden soil the better, I suspect.

Prior to planting I dug over the soil and spaced them out so they have room to grow in coming years, although I have noticed that each adult bulb sends up "pups" which hug close to their parents, so I expect that overcrowding may be the Scadoxus way of life.

Each bulb should be planted with about half the bulb (and all the roots of course) beneath the soil. 

As it's a bulb it carries with it its own storehouse of food, so all I did was water them all in with some seaweed solution, which encourages the roots to grow.

The general position in which the Scadoxus thrive is full, but fairly well lit shade (not the dim, dark stuff). The soil itself is good rich stuff, too, which I am sure helps them thrive. 
Sydney gets plenty of rain every year, so I never water them. 

Even the potted babies (which are in the same, shady spot) only get the occasional watering and no other help from me.

From what I've read about the seeds, the main thing is to harvest and plant them as soon as they turn red, as they don't stay viable for long. So I guess the main tip is to be "Jenny on the spot" and plant them early on.

I am sure that I have worn down even the most loyal readers by now, but if by some miracle you are still with me at this stage of my diary update, the whole thing is "slow progress" because I honestly don't have a clue how many years it will take these babies to turn into flowering adults. I do know that some of the smaller Scadoxus bulbs, which have been here for several years, still haven't flowered, so I truly don't know if I will even be alive to see my babies bloom! Maybe they're like Agaves and only bloom after half a century? Who knows.

I am just thankful to have some lovely mature bulbs here that put on stunning shows every spring. As for the little ones, I'm already deriving quite a bit of pleasure just raising them. And besides: babies are gorgeous, so enjoy raising them to the best of your ability ... but who really knows how one's children will really turn out in the long run? It's up to them.

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