It is almost the end of the Oxalis season, and Romuleas are also finishing their bloom and ripening seed. The greenhouses, however, are still a delight, for Lachenalias are at their best now, providing a dazzling array of soft color, and also filling the greenhouse with scent.
Lachenalia is a large genus of more than 100 species, most of which are found in the Cape Province of South Africa. They are members of the Hyacinth Family, and clearly demonstrate their relationship to the more commonly known hyacinths in their form and, often, their fragrance. The species from the Cape, unlike their cousins, are not particularly hardy, but given the right conditions, they are delightful container subjects, and in mild regions can be grown in the garden providing they have a warm, dry dormancy.
The color range is very broad, and many species, like the beautiful Lachenalia aloides v. quadricolor, seen here to the left, have multiple bright colors in their makeup, while others are less flamboyant, like the scented L. zeyheri, seen here to the right.
By far the most popular Lachenalia, and justifiably so, is the stunningly beautiful L. viridiflora. The color is almost unique, a beautiful turquoise green that is only equalled by another native of the Cape Province, Ixia viridiflora.
L. viridiflora is almost always in bloom by Christmas, being one of the earlier Lachenalias to bloom. I am never able to meet the demand for this lovely bulb. Here it is to the right.
The delicate coloring of L. pallida makes it one of my favorites, the primrose flowers opening from purple buds. This species multiplies well, and a pot full makes a wonderful impression. Here it is to the left.
Lachenalia pustulata, in spite of its ugly name, is a very beautiful species. It comes in a range of colors, from yellow to pink to blue. The name refers to the bumps on the leaves, although sometimes the leaves are smooth. Here is the blue form to the right.
Red is not unknown in Lachenalias, with L. rubida having deep red flowers, and sometimes foliage that is also tinted red. Here it is to the right. Another red species is Lachenalia bulbifera, seen here below and to the left. Both of these species are early blooming, and have already finished and set seed.
A collection of Lachenalias can be a delight, with their bloom season extending from late November until early May. They are not suitable as house plants, for they become floppy in low light, but an unheated sun porch, protected from frost, can provide the conditions they need. In bloom, they can be brought into the house for a few days without harm.
For more photographs and descriptions of other species, please see the web site at: www.telosrarebulbs.com