Showing posts with label unusual bulbs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unusual bulbs. Show all posts

African Albuca Bulb Belongs in the World of Weird Yet Wonderful

Albuca spiralis in early March, 2017.
If every picture tells a story, then every plant has a lot to say. I love to learn about a plant's background; it makes them more interesting. Knowing a plant's past allows you to visualize it in place and time, before they wound up on a shelf in a shop, displayed at a trade show, or on a bench in a nursery.

I tend to take better care of those I've chosen in person. Like the Albuca spiralis 'Frizzle Sizzle', which I found in Phoenix when I was visiting my sister and attending a Chicago Cubs spring training game.

Here it is in the same pot September, 2017 after a summer spent
on the patio, its little green bulb began to sprout. 
It reminded me of a Charlie Brown tree, with its pair of wispy leaves emerging from a bulb that might have been the Martian version of Charlie Brown’s head. It was planted in a 4-inch pot and it cost
almost $20. Spending that much for a bulb in a pot with two leaves is, even for me, not a habit. But when I learned from its tag that it comes from Africa, I decided to give it a try. If I had to name my latest passion it would be growing plants that originated in Africa.

From the limited information I've found online, most sources say the flowers are fragrant. I didn't detect a scent so I put it in my bedroom with the door closed. I woke up thinking someone put a used frying pan on my bed. Not quite the scent of old grease, it smelled like a pan that had browned French toast or pancakes the previous day and hadn't been washed.

Flowers of Albuca spiralis don't have a pleasant fragrance--unless you like
your flowers to smell like a used saute pan. 
So although it can be described as having fragrant flowers, Albuca spiralis isn't something you'd want to bury your nose in. Unless you're hungry for French toast. Luckily, the scent isn't strong in a large room, so I'm not ready to cut the flowers off. I see them as a badge of honor, indicating that I'm giving the plant what it wants in order to perform as it would in its home environment.

So where can you purchase your very own Albuca spiralis? Logee's Plants for Home and Garden offers it for sale, as does Hirt's Garden. It seems plant purveyors are having trouble keeping this little wierdo in stock.


Tigridia Flower is Like Nothing Else

Somewhat like an Iris, a family to which it belongs, Tigridia, or shell flower, is in a class of its own.

The center of the flower is a cup of many colors, with three "handles," or petals, floppy yet firm, like a puppy's ears and about the same size.

Flower colors range from white to deep pink, pale to bright yellow and orange. I bought a mix in 2016 and potted them up with a Pelargonium, and when they emerged some time in August, I was immediately impressed with their weird beauty.


They have a somewhat messy demeanor, though, and when they finished blooming, I dragged the huge pot under the eaves to a north-facing spot right up next to the garage. The pot stayed there all winter.

Imagine my surprise when this decidedly non-hardy bulb sprouted this spring. I had other plans for the pot, so I dumped out all of the bulbs and tucked them into the VegTrug, where I'd planned to grow flowers for cutting, and into a smaller pot with some Eucomis.

I can only guess that it was our mild winter that saved these tender little bulbs. That, and the fact that they were kept dry and were in a pot with thick walls.

When they began to bloom in July, I saw that most of the flowers were a pale yellow. Some grew near another pot containing Cosmos atrosanguineus, or Cosmos 'Chocamocha', which has flowers that smell like chocolate. I like the way they looked together, and found that the Cosmos, once it get's going, is really feisty and insinuates itself into and over anything growing nearby. I decided that, if I were to mix Tigridia in a container with anything, it could be with 'Chocamocha', which would disguise the Tigridia's less-than-pretty demeanor between blooms.

When they first start to open, Tigridia flowers look like tulips. It all happens in a day, so you have to pay attention. That's the problem with Tigridia--each flower lasts only a day. After the flower is finished, it shrinks down into a soggy bud that's favored by Japanese beetles. It's not pretty.

The bottom line on Tigridia? For me, I'm happy to have made their acquaintance. But I don't think I'll be keeping them in my repertoire. If I had lots of space in the ground with full sun, I'd grow them along with Gladiolus. The bulbs are rather inexpensive. I purchased ten bulbs for under $10. Easy to Grow Bulbs has them in single-color packages, a good thing if you prefer one of the colors.

Tigridia in a vase only works if you are prepared to remove the flowers once they're finished blooming a day later.

Grow Exotic Flowers from Africa

Who knew I'd finally be learning geography in my 60s? It was never a strong suit for me. Like history, it just never interested me in grade school. It wasn't until I started to travel that I began to peek beyond the borders of my "homeland."

It was in my ever-widening search for more plants that I discovered Africa. South Africa that is, specifically the southern Cape region.

Some really cool plants come from there, and many of them bloom in the winter and early spring. I'm happy to say the Lachenalia I purchased and bloomed last year is flowering again. The variety is 'Rupert', and it's a luscious lilac purple color.

In its first year, planted early November. By Dec. 21,
Lachenalia 'Rupert' put out some impressive leaves.
According to Cape Bulbs by Richard L. Doutt, this Hyacinth relative is pronounced lah-shel-ahl'-ee-a, named in 1784 for professor of botany, Werner de La Chenal in Switzerland.

First its leaves emerge--each as substantial as a leather strap, in a vivid green with irregular spots of deep burgundy.

It was the Lachenalia's need for supplemental light that led me to purchase lighting fixtures. When the leaves appear, they'll tend to be floppy, especially if they don't get enough light.

Chubby little flower spikes emerge slowly.
At this point, these drought tolerant little bulbs get thirsty. I perform two tests to make sure the soil is dry enough to benefit from a deep watering. I feel the leaves. If they're soft and somewhat limp, I'll sharpen a pencil down to fresh wood and stick it into the soil, just under half way. If it comes out dry or with a dry soil residue, I water it well. Although they enjoy more moisture than you'd think for a bulb with such succulent leaves, they will easily rot with too much water.


Lachenalia 'Rupert' grows flower spikes that lengthen as they mature to a height of around 10".