Tag Archives: blue lachenalias

The later flowering lachenalias

Left to right, probably arbuthnotiae, aloides tricolor, aloides vanzyliae, glaucina x 2, mutabilis, what came to us as carnosa but probably a hybrid, don’t know (or can’t remember) and contaminata – a round up of some currently in flower this morning 

Back in August 2015, I wrote what I called part one about lachenalias, covering the early bloomers.  It has taken me three years but I return with part two on the late bloomers. Back in our days of putting out a mail order catalogue, we used to offer a range of over a dozen different lachenalias, all but one or two being species, and we gathered up every different one we could find for the garden. By the way, our last mail order catalogue went out in 2003 (yes! 2003!) so we have long since stopped supplying plants. If you are in New Zealand, try Trade Me which is one of the last places you can source some of these less common bulbs.

In the years since, some have proven themselves in the garden and others have faded away. The early season varieties in that first post are all easy and reliable as garden plants (L. bulbifera, L. aloides quadricolor, L. aloides var. aloides and Mark’s L. reflexa hybrid). Others are best kept in pots if you want to ensure their continued survival.

Lachenalia glaucina flowers, nestled in amongst the foliage of narcissi which have already finished blooming. The lachenalia’s foliage is much sparser and close to the ground

In the blues the absolute stand-out is Lachenalia glaucina, or at least the good forms of it. It can throw a lot of seedling variation. It was difficult as a nursery plant, partly because it was frost tender and we were growing the bulbs in open conditions, not under cover. Over the years, it has become one of most successful varieties in the garden – in an understated sort of way. I used to encourage less experienced gardeners to choose L. mutabilis instead because it was much easier and more reliable, while still a good blue. Now I can tell you that it was easier in a pot.  I am not even sure that we still have it growing in the garden. I rounded up one somewhat moth-eaten flower from a bulb that is struggling on in the heap where we dump our used bark potting mix. The other blues we used to grow like unicolor, mediana, and ‘Te Puke Blue’ have not thrived in garden conditions and the only plants we have left are in Mark’s covered house, where only he ever gets to see them. The same with the beautiful cream lachenalia with the terrible name of L pustulata (on account of its warty leaves).

Lachenalia aloides tricolor and aloides var. vanzyliae

Lachenalia aloides is an interesting species. It gives us the most common of all lachenalias in New Zealand – the strong growing orange and yellow one that looks as if it should be sold amongst the fake flowers at The Warehouse. That form has finished flowering for the season, as has its four-coloured variant, quadricolor. But look at these two late flowering forms of same species. L. aloides tricolor is a combination of green, yellow and red, finer in form than the usual aloides. It is easy to grow and reliable. And then there is L. aloides var. vanzyliae – surely the most desirable of them all and also the most unreliable. Ain’t that just the way? Who wouldn’t want a big patch of this little charmer in pristine white with highlights of aqua blue and lime green? It is at least still growing for us but I would hardly describe it as flourishing.

The other two from the top line-up that have proven to be easy and reliable here as garden plants are creamy L. contaminata (it has naturalising potential) and the pink one that came to us L carnosa but Mark thinks is a hybrid.

As always, it is the detail that gives us delight in our garden, not just the big pictures.

Glorious glaucina – the best performing blue lachenalia in our garden

Postscript: rather than rewriting the same information, I copy below the general info I wrote earlier about the genus of lachenalias:

Lachenalias are South African bulbs, mostly from the Cape Province. Some are very easy to grow, others less so. Naturally the very choice varieties are the ones that are less amenable but that is always the way. Some are desert plants and we struggle with those, but the ones that grow in areas of winter rainfall are generally easy and reliable in our conditions. A few, like L. glaucina, are particularly frost tender. Lachenalias last very well as a cut flower and will out-bloom most other late winter and spring bulbs in the garden. L. bulbifera is already in bloom by the beginning of July while the white L. contaminata flowers through November. A family of easy-care bulbs which gives us a full five months of blooming across the colour spectrum – what is not to like?

Flowering this week – bluebells and blue lachenalias

Bluebells (more correctly hyacinthoides, used to be scillas and even endymion)

Bluebells (more correctly hyacinthoides, used to be scillas and even endymion)

Wordsworth waxed lyrical over his sea of golden daffodils (long finished here and hardly a sea) but it is the haze of bluebells that is pleasing us this week. The desirable bluebell is the English one, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, which is scented and less inclined to be as over enthusiastic as the larger growing Spanish one (H. hispanica). But they are reportedly struggling to keep H. non-scripta pure in the UK and odds on what we have here are various Spanglish forms of natural hybrids. Bluebells also come in pink and white although they do not then become Pinkbells or Snowbells. The other colours have some novelty value, but for large scale drifts you can’t beat the beautiful blue. In the UK where their woodland is far more open than our forest, it is hard to surpass the romantic sight of a copse of white barked birches with a blue carpet below. Here we have to naturalise on the margins where there is sufficient light but the bulbs are not competing with full on grass cover which overwhelms everything.

If you really want to sort out the origin of your bluebells, the English ones have cream anthers whereas the Spanish ones always have blue anthers. Apparently. Presumably if you have both blue anthers and cream anthers in your patch, you have Spanglish bluebells. And in case you are too embarrassed to ask what an anther it, it is the pollen bit on the end of the stamen in the centre of the flower.

Probably lachenalia orchioides var. glaucina

Probably lachenalia orchioides var. glaucina

Bluebells are easy to naturalise and have a simple charm. Blue lachenalias take considerably more effort to build up and are much fussier about position, but have a great deal more status value. We find mutabilis is the easiest of the blue lachenalias, bur orchioides var. glaucina is showier. Over the years we have collected as many different blue and lilac lachenalias as we can find but they tend to be a little promiscuous and it is likely that we now have the species mixed. We certainly have the labels mixed. The blues flower later, are more frost tender and somewhat fussier than some of easier red, orange and yellow forms (aloides, reflexa, bulbifera and the like).