Tag Archives: lachenalias

When the detail brings delight, not the devil

Tulipa saxatilis and simple cream freesias in the rockery this week

Bulbs play a major role in our garden. We use a huge range of bulbs, many no longer available commercially. Some never were readily available. Very few of those we grow are the larger, modern hybrids which are generally what are on offer these days. We prefer the simpler style of the species or at least closer to the species.

Added to that, seventy years of intensive gardening across two generations has built up the numbers most satisfyingly. Most of our cultivated gardens have bulbs incorporated in the plantings. Or at least bulbs, corms, tubers or rhizomes to cover the range.


We have a fair few that are fleeting seasonal wonders in our climate but we just adjust our expectations. The cute erythroniums – dog’s tooth violets – are maybe a 10 day delight and can be taken out by untimely storms but that is just the way things are.

Meet Beryl. Narcissis ‘Beryl’ with cyclamen, nerines and even a Satyrium coriifolium in the bottom left corner

I don’t grow any in containers now although the same can not be said of Mark. His bulb collection is currently sitting in limbo for us all to see the scale as his inner sanctum – his Nova house – is currently being relocated. He hasn’t taken good care of them in recent times but he is determined to keep some of the rarer, touchier varieties alive. It is possible to maintain a more comprehensive bulb collection if you are willing to faff around with growing them in containers in controlled conditions. I am not so dedicated. My interest wanes if we can not grow them in garden conditions.

Gladiolus tristis popping up unexpectedly in our parking area

It is the random bulbs beyond the gardens that are currently bringing me pleasure. Some of these have been planted. Some have popped up from our nursery days. When trays of bulbs were being repotted, Mark had a strict rule that fresh potting mix was to be used (granulated bark was our chosen medium). Hygiene, he would explain. The old potting mix was spread around the place and at times it had seed or tiny bulbs within it. I am guessing this is how the Gladiolus tristis, a species gladiolus, came to be at the base of a cherry tree. I certainly don’t remember planting it there and I can’t recall it flowering before.

Ipheions at the base of an orange tree

When we plant bulbs beyond the cultivated garden areas, we try and select spots where they can establish in fairly undisturbed conditions. At the base of trees is good, as long as there is plenty of light. Around old tree stumps, on margins that don’t get mown often, or in little spots where we can walk past and be surprised to see them in bloom.

Trillium red with bluebells down in the park meadow
And trillium white with Lachenalia aloides tricolor and snowdrops to the right on the margins by a stump

We have rather too many bluebells now, to the point where I often dig out clumps to reduce overcrowding. The Spanish bluebells or the ones that are crosses between the vigorous Spanish and the more refined English species are definitely rampant, bordering on weeds. That sea of blue is very charming in their flowering season but sometimes it is the one seedling escape flowering bravely on its own that makes me smile as I pass.

The simplicity of a self-sown bluebell
Common old Lachenalia aloides where a tree stump used to be

It is both the transient nature and the detail that makes bulbs so interesting in a garden context. Far from simplifying our own garden as we age, the more we garden, the more we like to add fine detail. That is what keeps it interesting for us.

Bluebells and narcissi at the base of gum tree
Narcissus bulbocodium with bluebells

Tikorangi Notes: June 19, 2011

Spring Festival is one of the prettiest in flower this week  though spring is still a way off here

Spring Festival is one of the prettiest in flower this week though spring is still a way off here

Tikorangi Notes: Sunday June 19, 2011

Our mild autumn continues though technically we are now well into winter. It may be wet but it is not generally cold. The ski fields inland and south seem to be getting nervous (and I am wondering whether the Christmas gift of a season lift pass to our snowboarding son was badly timed for the one season in a decade when the snows will be patchy and unpredictable) but it does mean that we are enjoying great gardening conditions. Except for last Friday which was cold (calm but cloudy and cold), daytime temperatures remain in the late teens and night temperatures are not dropping much below 10 degrees Celsius.

Lachenalia bulbifera, naturalised beneath a large pine tree

Lachenalia bulbifera, naturalised beneath a large pine tree

Magnolia Vulcan is opening its first blooms on the various plants we have around the property. Mid June is early. We usually expect peak flowering later in July. A hail storm last night damaged those early buds and blooms but there are plenty more to come which will be undamaged. The early lachenalias are open – red L. bulbifera, the yellow of Mark’s L. reflexa hybrids and the common L. aloides. The first of the snowdrops are in flower. We never get snow here but Galanthus S Arnott is wonderfully successful on our climate and there are few plants as pretty as the simple snowdrops. The sasanqua camellias are passing over and the japonicas and hybrids are taking over. Spring Festival is particularly pretty this week. With petal blight already hitting before many varieties have even opened, it is probably time to be a little more meticulous in recording which varieties show less damage and still put on a good show. Petal blight is probably here to stay. It will take breeding and selection to find a way past the ravages.

Just one new post this week – our Tikorangi Diary which records Mark’s unsuccessful efforts so far to extract olive oil with a zero carbon footprint and plans for our designated Citrus Grove.

We have been discussing our citrus trees here – somewhere around 20 different specimens which are very well established (as in some are probably around 50 years old now) and I have plans for a series of posts on growing fruit trees and the aim for self sufficiency and variety and how realistic this is in our climate.

The first blooms on Magnolia Vulcan were hit by hailstones last night

The first blooms on Magnolia Vulcan were hit by hailstones last night