The Plant Collector: Lachenalia reflexa

The earliest bulbs are in flower - Lachenalia reflexa midst the snowdrops

The earliest bulbs are in flower - Lachenalia reflexa midst the snowdrops

I have this little self-imposed rule which is that I can’t repeat a plant (at least, not yet) so the plant this week is not the delightful English snowdrops (this form is Galanthus S. Arnott which is the most reliable performer in our conditions), even though the clumps and drifts we have in full flower throughout the garden are an absolute delight. No, we are looking at the yellow flowers coming through with the snowdrops. This is Lachenalia reflexa. It is the yellowest of the lachenalias we grow here, all of which are native to South Africa. There are well over 100 different species, often taken for granted in their homeland where they are just wild flowers. Not all are easy to grow. Reflexa isn’t too difficult though it is not particularly vigorous, which is why it is not common. The yellow is a pure bright lemon shade, sometimes with green markings which fade out as the flower matures. Like most lachenalias, it doesn’t hang onto its foliage for particularly long after flowering. These plants are growing on the edge of our gravel driveway beside a low stone wall. Many of the species bulbs (which is as they occur in the wild) are used to surviving in quite harsh conditions with little soil and low fertility. If you try and treat them like choice garden plants, they don’t always cope. The critical issue, as always with bulbs, is to ensure excellent drainage, even more so when they are dormant (in summer for reflexa), to avoid them rotting out.