After several months of one of the wetter winters that I can recall, the appearance of certain flowering bulbs is a signal that spring is not just an abstract concept, and is about to become a reality once again. One of my favourite genera from early plant sourcing trips to Taranaki (more than 15 years ago) is the terrestrial orchid Calanthe, of which a number of species were made available in New Zealand – primarily via the highly regarded Jury nursery in Waitara.
Despite being reasonably easy to cultivate, Calanthe species are still rare in cultivation in New Zealand, and we are only able to include them in selected projects in limited quantities (propagated from our own stock). A much more common herald of spring is the genus to which daffodils belong (Narcissus). Many species and varieties emerge from the middle of winter onwards, and the species pictured below (Narcissus bulbocodium, commonly known as hoop petticoat daffodils) is coming into bloom at present.
The hoop petticoat daffodils pictured above are naturalised amongst grass at Waikumete Cemetery, where a host of attractive bulbs appear over spring and early summer. A less common species of daffodil, called Narcissus jonquilla, is more likely to be encountered in the collection of specialists (such as the specimen pictured below, right).
The frothy flowerheads of Melasphaerula ramosa (a South African bulb, pictured below left, which naturalises readily in gardens) provide a delicate texture to plantings, in a similar manner to how Gypsophila has been used in many traditional gardens in colder climates.
The final plant included in this journal entry has been the centre of attention in our office for the last few weeks, with its enigmatic white and smoky purple flowers. This Odontoglossum variety was a gift from our friend, Gary Boyle (a landscape designer who has done some of the finest work in New Zealand for several decades), and it grows happily outside in conditions similar to its usual epiphytic or rupestral habitats in which these exotic orchids naturally occur. For its flowering period, it is surprisingly tolerant of being brought indoors, where it brings considerably more life to one corner of the office than the adjoining printer.