Friday, August 23, 2013

Our torches are glowing

"Crikey, what are those things?" asked the tradie working around the back of our house. He was pointing towards the quartet of dazzling orange scadoxus in bloom at the rear of our yard. With the low afternoon sun catching their vivid tops, for an hour or so every day it looks they are torches on fire. These flowering bulbs have several common names, including Natal Paintbrush, which tells you where they're from, and Scadoxus puniceus will help you find it in a reference book or online catalogue. Every year I do a blog posting about them, and that's what I am doing again.

Even from inside our house the Scadoxus are
the first thing you notice when you look outside.
Perched on fast-growing 40cm tall stalks which
had barely poked out of the ground just seven
weeks ago, in early July, the flower heads
take about two weeks to fully unfurl. 
Then when they do unfurl they'll last another two to three
weeks in this condition, depending on the weather.

They've bloomed much earlier this year, thanks to the mild
warm winter we have enjoyed. Usually September is their time.
The countless hundreds of little pollen tops help to explain why
the blooms look so afire when the low sun hits them.
Pollen falls constantly from the blooms, dusting the deep red leaves.
The vivid flowering is testament to the
health of these very easy-care plants, but
as confirmation the little thicket of baby
bulbs forming around the base of the
older bulbs promises that the scadoxus
shows will just get more spectacular as
the years roll by.
In my previous posting about the succulent Senecio in the hanging basket I mentioned how lovely it is to have plants given to you as gifts – every time I look at them, especially when they're at their very best, I think of the person who gave me the gift of the plant.

Well, by happy coincidence it's the same story with these scadoxus; they were a gift from another gardening writer who I worked with, the lovely Geoffrey Burnie, who is now editing Your Garden magazine. Thanks once more, Geoffrey, your scadoxus bulbs are loving life here in the mostly shady (but not always shady), sheltered spot you suggested I plant them.


Lanie at Edible Urban Garden said...

They really are amazing. I love the fact that I see them each year. It is a wonderful reminder of the changing of the season.

dirtgirl said...

Spectacular, what a wonderful addition to your garden, plus a lovely reminder of a gardening friend.

Janine Thompson said...

I purchased one of these last September.It grows on a pot. It is now growing beautiful, healthy leaves, but no flowers. I was expecting the flowers before the leaves.Does it flower every year? Does it have to be a certain age to flower?

Jamie said...


I'm no scadoxus expert, but I do know there are other species which flower at other times of year. The most common species. Scadoxus multiflorus, flowers in late summer, so perhaps that is what you have.

I also know from experience that one of the bulbs given to me by Geoffrey only flowered after three years in the ground, so you might have to wait for the bulb to fully develop.

Here's a link to a listing of scadoxus species from the Pacific Bulb Society: