Plant Collector: blandfordia (February bells here)

Blandfordia - Australia's Christmas bells

Blandfordia – Australia’s Christmas bells

Christmas bells is the common name. Apparently in their homelands of Australia, these bulbs flower around Christmas. They are somewhat later here but the flowering lasts many weeks. It is not that there are large quantities of blooms, just that they come in succession and each trumpet lasts for a long time. These ones are on stems about 30cm high. The foliage is small, anonymous and grass-like at the base.

There are four different species of blandfordia and they have been given a family all of their own. They are hugely variable in colour and flower size, ranging from all red to all yellow, which makes identification difficult. We think this one is most likely to be Blandfordia grandiflora (so-named because it has the largest flowers) which is native to New South Wales and Queensland. There is a slight hesitation, however, between that and the Tasmanian form B. punicea. Unless an Australian botanist arrives at the right time, we may not get a definitive identification.

You don’t see blandfordias around often, or used in cut flower production, because they are slow to establish. Really slow, in fact. The references say up to 7 years to get to flowering size. In our case, maybe add another 7 before we started getting consistent flowering. Ours appears to be largely evergreen, keeping some foliage year round. Blandfordias need excellent drainage but not dry and baked in arid conditions.

blandfordia (2) - Copy

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.