Lachenalia bulbifera

Naturalised beneath a pine tree - the rogue flower is a form of aloides

Naturalised beneath a pine tree - the rogue flower is a form of aloides

One country’s wild flowers can be another country’s treasures, or indeed weeds in some cases. Fortunately South Africa’s lachenalias fall into the treasure category. We have a collection of different lachenalias which will flower in sequence from now until mid spring. One group of South African visitors was surprised to see the extent to which we use them as garden plants and commented that we appeared to have a better collection than ever seen at home. But as there are over 100 different lachenalia species in the wild plus a confusion of natural hybrids, our collection is only modest. The most common lachenalia is the garish (or cheerful) orange and yellow aloides. This red one is a form of bulbifera and, being reasonably strong growing and not fussy, it has naturalised well at the base of an old pine tree in a paddock. The really highly prized lachenalias are the blue toned ones but they are much fussier (ain’t that just the way?) and generally more frost tender. We keep the more touchy varieties in the rockery while using the easier ones to naturalise for winter interest. All lachenalias grow from bulbs which will increase naturally in good drainage. If you gather seed, sow it while very fresh for best results.