Wednesday, June 3, 2009

African babies

Arriving at work the other day, I found these three people on my desk. They look a bit like papa bulb, mama bulb and baby bulb. One glance at the wonderfully illegible scrawl on the sheet of paper nearby told me that my good friend Geoffrey had left me something delightful to try in my garden, but what?

Bulbs are a bit like ducklings, if you appreciate a good fairy tale, and like swans. Not at their best when a baby, but quite magnificent when all grown up. These are bulbs of Scadoxus puniceus, but they have the common name of Natal paintbrush.

Geoffrey's excellent instructions, once I had decoded his handwriting, said to plant them shoulder deep, about a foot apart, in a well-lit but shady or semi-shady spot. Definitely nowhere out in full blazing hot sun, and preferably somewhere that will get its fair share of moisture. No worries, I've got several candidates to fit that bill.

Hopefully this is shoulder-deep. There is a bit of a ridge-line running around them, just where they change from bulbous bottom to volcano cone top.

All settled in for the winter, they'll send up their flower spike at the end of winter (August), and then the green leaves follow in spring.

Thanks to a quick search of Google images (this one is from the – thanks!) this is what I should see in a few months' time. Geoffrey says the biggest bulb will definitely flower, so too the middle one (probably, hopefully – I have planted them a bit later than the ideal time) but baby bulb might not do its thing till 2010. He says the flowers are about the size of an orange, scarlet with gold tips, held up on stout stems 35cm tall. Wow!

While I was not actively in the market for flowering bulbs, I'm really glad to add these three to my garden. Sydney is too warm for the traditional bulbs such as tulips to settle in. They can be grown here for one year's show, but they don't come back the following spring. It's even a bit too warm for many daffodils to thrive and survive, although jonquils and Dutch iris do OK here.

But Scadoxus are another thing. They actually like warm climates and
should enjoy becoming a resident of Sydney. They're a native of South Africa, and as many South African plants are totally at home here in Australia, due to our similar climates, I'm hoping my African visitors will feel very welcome. Thank you, Geoffrey!


prue said...

Hope they bloom, the is such a lovely and unusual flower!

Chandramouli S said...

The flower is so unique and attractive. You're lucky to have such a great friend!