Although the season for Arums is past, I am currently repotting my collection and realized I had never posted on this wonderful genus. I realize it takes a special kind of person to appreciate them, since many have scents that are akin to manure or rotting flesh (the rotting flesh category, though, belongs mostly to Amorphophallus). They are pollinated by flies, and must, therefore, use whatever means they can to attract suitable pollinators. Most are not that strongly scented, and since I keep my collection outside exposed to the weather, I do not notice the scent that much. Indoors it is another matter. The 'flower' or, more correctly, the inflorescence, is composed of a spathe which usually stands upright, but may curl back as it matures, and a spadix, a very curious structure that sticks up from the spathe and is the source of the scent. Low down on the spadix the actual flowers are arranged, and when pollinated these give rise to the spike of red berries characteristic of Arums.
My favorite Arum is Arum creticum, with butter yellow spathes (seen above). I have two different clones, and one (the one offered in the catalogue) has a faint sweetish scent, but the other smells of urine (I don't sell that one). It is a lovely plant, and with its arrow shaped leaves a very attractive addition to the garden. Another favorite is Arum dioscoridis, seen here to the right. It is variably marked on the spathe with purple.
Many years ago, I was walking my dog in a suburban neighborhood, and stopped to admire a charming little greenhouse, obviously a one-of-a-kind design. It was filled with junk, and had several panes broken, and I was thinking how I would love a little greenhouse like that and how I would take care of it and fill it with treasures. I glanced down at my feet, and there was a patch of Arum palaestinum that spread about ten feet in all directions, all in bloom with hundreds of beautiful deep purple velvety 'flowers'. I knocked on the door and asked the tenant if I could dig some up, and would give him some flowering bulbs for his garden in return. He, of course, had nothing to do with the Arums, and said I could take as many as I wanted, so I returned when they were dormant and dug a dozen or so. Here, to the right, is one of the descendants.
Arum dioscoridis v. philistaeum is a real beauty, with velvety purple spathes that have contrasting deeper purple patches. It is slower to reproduce than the others, so I don't have it available every year.
I have only selected my personal favorites for the blog, but there are many more on the web site: www.telosrarebulbs.com. Arums are wonderful additions to the garden, and most are fairly hardy. They are from the Mediterranean, and are often found on the many islands there. They grow at some considerable depth, so even in frosty areas they survive. Arums produce their handsome leaves in the winter and are dormant by late spring. Don't be put off by their reputed smell -- you really have to stick your nose right into the spathe, and their unusual beauty makes up for it.