Worsleya procera (syn. W. rayneri)
The most special plants flowering in our garden this week are the Worsleya procera (syn. W. rayneri) and they are not only special because they have the wonderful common name of Empress of Brazil (which tells you where they come from). They are also extremely rare in cultivation, a very beautiful lilac-blue in colour and generally regarded as almost impossible to grow as garden plants. We have two growing in different positions in the garden where they are just left to their own devices with no special treatment at all. When we had an international tour of clivia enthusiasts through, a number were also bulb aficionados and they were genuinely impressed that we could grow and flower this choice bulb in the garden. They are usually grown as really pernickety container plants. True, our flower spikes do not match the 150cm in height that they are reputed to reach, but the flowers are large and a most unusual colour in the bulb world.
There is only one species of worsleya but if you go back a step to the extended family, they are related to hippeastrums, crinums and amaryllis. Apparently in Brazil, they grow on steep granite cliffs beside waterfalls (where it is hard to imagine a flower spike of 150cm) but our garden conditions in no way resemble the natural habitat. The foliage is really interesting, arching in a semi circular, sickle fashion. These bulbs are not for the impatient gardener. Mark was standing looking at one of ours with Auckland plantsman, Terry Hatch, who originally supplied it to us. They agreed that was a long time ago, maybe as much as eight years. Mark found the label and it was in fact fifteen years. It had taken thirteen years to flower the first time. Time flies, apparently, when you are a gardener. Sadly, both ours are the same clone (one was an offset) and you need two different clones to get viable seed. Pukekura Park’s worsleya in the Fernery is not going to flower this year so if any local readers happen to have one in flower, we would love to swap pollen.
The gecko - a first for us to find a live one in our garden
LATEST POSTS: Friday 11 February, 2011
1) Gecko (singular but rare), many kereru and a mass of monarch butterflies in Abbie’s column this week. I admit that the photograph of the kereru was staged. It is not easy to get close enough to them and I had lost my one good image. In desperation we got one out of the freezer where Mark stores dead native birds he finds (all from natural causes) to pass on to a local kuia to pluck for use in making korowai or Maori feather cloaks. We had to partially defrost it to mould it, hold it in position and then hastily refreeze it as it was starting to smell rather high.
2) Amaryllis belladonna – often seen as rather coarse and common roadside flowers in this country but worth a second look. Plant Collector.
3) Garden tasks for this week though there is not a whole lot one can do at this time of the year beyond dividing bearded irises, daffodils and bluebells.
4) Not your ordinary everlasting flower – Helichrysum Silver Cushion in Plant Collector last week.
5) A little after the event now – garden tasks for the first week of February in an antipodean summer.
6) The second in our Outdoor Classroom series on making compost – step by step hot compost mixes with an impressive shot of our compost heap resembling an attraction at a thermal reserve.
Worsleya rayneri in the garden, just starting to open its blooms
TIKORANGI NOTES: Friday 11 February, 2011There weren’t any Tikorangi Notes last week. I think I was feeling uninspired and having a great deal of trouble focussing my eyes on the computer screen – the result of not seeking help earlier for what turned out to be part of a seed head embedded in one eye. Such are the dangers of gardening. But this week was marked by two events – finding that we have a resident gecko in the garden (the gecko being a rarely sighted native lizard) – written about in Latest Posts 1, and the opening of not one but two Worsleya rayneri blooms in different locations in the garden. The worsleya flowering is not quite as rare as the sighting of a live gecko – it has happened twice before – but to manage this feat with bulbs planted out in the garden rather than kept in controlled conditions in a container is a reasonably significant triumph.