Lily Lion Heart

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Summer-Rainfall Brunsvigias

From my recent trip to South Africa I wanted to highlight the beautiful genus Brunsvigia (which honours the German House of Brunswick). They are known as the Candelabra Flower. There are some 20 species in the family Amaryllidaceae which grow in the semi-arid regions of South Africa. They produce amazing displays of colour in autumn. They are mostly winter-rainfall growers, however the two in my post are summer-rainfall growers.

Brunsvigia grandiflora- pictured in Maclear, Eastern Cape. It is 80cm tall and found in scattered grasslands at 1200-2300 m. It grows it leaves and flowers at the same time. Its leaves are 10-15 and the bulb is large. Its flowers are pink containing some 30-60 in a spreading inflorescence. In the wild it blooms from Jan-March.

Brunsvigia radulosa- photographed in Barkly East is also widespread in grasslands in higher altitude summer-rainfall regions of the Eastern Cape. The flowers are red blooming January or February in the wild.


Saturday, 11 February 2012

Ohhhh my precious Dionysia!!

Today I ventured outside and opened my greenhouse to view my beautiful Dionysia in full bloom. The daily temperature was a frigid -10 C with a windchill in the -20's. Brrrr. I had to take pictures rather quickly due to the cold as I have other tender South African bulbs in this greenhouse.

For those who do not know I have a penchant or shall we say obsession with the genus Dionysia. They are my favourite alpine and one of my favourite Genera period.

There are some 45 species of which two I grow. In the wild they mostly inhabit shaded or partially shaded cliffs and rocks. The summers are hot and extremely dry, the winters generally intensely cold with most precipitation falling as snow or early spring rains. They are a challenging alpine, although the two I grow are somewhat more manageable D. aretioides 'Bernd Wetzel' and D. tapetodes.

I swoon when I look at these plants.  They are very precious to me. I call them my Persian Gems.  D. aretioides comes from the Elburz mountains of Iran while tapetodes comes from NE Iran to Afghanistan.  They cannot tolerate winter wet on their crowns and must be grown under glass or outdoors as nurseryman Harvey Wrightman does in a scree garden tucking them underneath layers of shale ( simulating a cliff if you will) keeping their crowns dry.

Dionysia aretioides

Dionysia tapetodes

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Back from Eastern Cape, South Africa

Well I have returned from my trip to South Africa recently and am finally doing a long-awaited post.  What a country of superlatives; resplendent, magnificent, majestic, otherworldly, magical, pristine, splendiferous just to name a few. Words cannot describe my experience except to say that it was very special to me, unlike any other trip I've taken.

The people were warm and down to earth. I felt very much at home. The animal and bird life were fascinating, teeming with many different types of exotic colourful birds some only summer residents, others common residents.

I travelled to the province of the Eastern Cape ( formerly the Transkei) and covered some 2275 KM. The native people that inhabit the Cape are called Xhosa (pronounced Kosa). They live in mud and dung structures ( huts) with a thatched roof as well as rectangular homes made of the same material with a makeshift tinroof holding it down. They paint their dwellings in fantastical colours. They receive money from the government to live and build their homes.  They farm mostly cattle and sheep.

Crinum macowanii (below) is a beautiful bulbous plant from Perseverance. This plant for me was one of the favourites of all the flora I saw on this trip. It is found from the coast to the mountains, in grassland, rocky areas, and near rivers. It is used in traditional medicine to treat urinary infections, itchy rashes and for poultices, bandages and protective charms. It makes a lovely garden plant producing more than three inflorescences in succession.  It is named after Peter Macowan, 1830-1909, botanist, teacher, started the SA Bot. Exchange Society, a large private herbarium.