Spring bulbs

August 29, 2013

Within our work, we are particularly interested in the place that bulbs can play within a garden – emerging through the structure of a planting in the manner that many of them do within their respective wild habitats.

Although the many species of garden bulbs stage their flowering over much of the year, late winter and spring is the most significant period for flowering bulbs within Auckland’s winter-rainfall climate. This journal entry shows images of species that are currently in flower, such as the dwarf Watsonia (below, right) and Lachenalia pallida, as well as species that will come into bloom in the coming months, such as Worsleya procera (whose remarkable blooms are shown at the bottom).

Aside from the beauty of their floral colours and patterns (the pattern and form of Gladiolus uysiae‘s blooms, above left, are a particularly intricate example), the element of surprise is another virtue of bulbs – for they often emerge from the ground in a hurry.

A considerable number of the bulbs that are grown in Auckland gardens come from the wondrous Cape Floristic Region of South Africa, such as Lachenalia pallida (which is shown above). I was fortunate enough to visit this part of the world 8 years ago, and see some of these plants within nature.

During that trip, I walked over Table Mountain to look at the remarkable diversity of plants that occur on Cape Town’s dominant landscape feature. On the way up the side of the mountain, Gladiolus carneus (above) was in flower at this time, as were Melasphaerula ramosa and a nodding species of Albuca (neither of which are pictured herein).

Towards the top of Table Mountain, on the way down towards Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Spiloxene capensis (above) was in flower amongst grasses. Although not as commonly planted as Freesias or Watsonias, this is a relatively popular garden bulb in the north of New Zealand.

The extremely popular genus Clivia hails from South Africa, and is most often represented by C. miniata in gardens. The variety that is pictured above is one of the less well-known interspecific hybrids, which exhibits the elegant, hanging floral arrangement that is a feature of Clivia gardenii and C. caulescens (two species that deserve to be more widely grown).

Finally, the rare Worsleya procera hails from Brazil, where the few remaining naturally-occurring plants cling to moist cliff habitats. In contrast with the other species shown within this journal (except Gladiolus uysiae), W. procera is not particularly easy to grow; but it is worth it for the spectacular blue blooms that reward a patient gardener.