We are rather delighted with our Cyrtanthus falcatus this week. It is not that it is a flower of great beauty in its own right, more that it is a plant of great curiosity and a bit of triumph to grow in the garden.
The cyrtanthus family come from South Africa. By far the most common form is the one widely known as the red vallota (Vallota speciosa, often called the Scarborough lily though it is a member of the amaryllis family and not a lily at all). We also use the dainty but sweetly scented evergreen Cyrtanthus mackenii in the rockery. It will not stop you in your tracks. But C. falcatus will attract anybody who is interested in plants.
We first saw it flowering in the UK in a glasshouse at Wisley back in the mid nineties and have never seen it flower in this country. That is not to say that it hasn’t ever flowered here, just that we haven’t seen or heard of it flowering. Auckland plantsman, Terry Hatch, listed it many years ago and Mark bought several bulbs. Only one survived. He had been trying to grow them in containers but in desperation planted the last remaining specimen into the garden where it has thrived and multiplied. The original bulb is now about the size of a belladonna bulb, so large, and has at least three visible offsets. But this is its first flowering. We have only waited well over a decade, maybe even fifteen years for this event. The mottled stem is about 30cm, strong and curved at the top like an upside down umbrella handle so the reddish pendant flowers face downwards. Who knows, given another decade or two, we may have a whole drift of them and they will undoubtedly be more spectacular when there is more than one. Good things take time.