At the start of each year I delude myself into thinking that this year, even though I’m still at the jam jar stage of flower arranging, each month I will make a contribution to Cathy’s IAVOM meme. If the weather had been less arctic, there would have been a reasonable chance of a very small posy of primroses, but it is now the fourth Monday of the month and not a bloom or scrap of foliage is to be found. Therefore I’m going to offer pots rather than a vase for your delectation.
Today is the type of January day when to venturing outside is to endure the equivalent of being smothered in a cold, wet, grey blanket; however a two-minute dash to the lean-to garden adds a touch of the exotic to a drab day. When not even an early snowdrop can be coaxed into bloom, my South African bulbs demonstrate an extra-ordinary degree of resilience. They are sheltered from the worst of the winter weather, but there is no heating and the all the plants are exposed to the open air, as one side of the building is only covered by plastic mesh. The Veltheimias sit on the top shelf along the back wall where they get the maximum amount of light. As you can see this is a “post-modern industrial style” building complete with breeze blocks and metal fittings, built to withstand a hurricane rather than for aesthetics. However, the plants seem to thrive in this environment and will flower from November until February.
The two species of Veltheimia are very similar, V. bracteata is found in the coastal forests and accordingly requires either shade or semi-shade and is partially evergreen in the summer, whilst V. capensis grows in more arid areas, needs more light and is dormant in the dry season. They are easy to grow in pots, and provided that you get the watering right and are not tempted to repot the bulbs too often, they will flower freely. If you are growing V. capensis the bulbs need to be kept very dry in the summer and will flower better if they can be “baked” in the sun. In the winter they seem to do better in cooler conditions and always seem to be happier in a well-lit porch or cool conservatory rather than in the warmer rooms of the house. My bulbs were grown from seed almost 20 years ago, and I have been giving away the offsets on a regular basis for many years. It requires a little patience to get the small bulbs to flower, but I think they’re worth the wait. Such a pity there are no sunbirds to enjoy the nectar.
As you can see from the setting, the well-used pots and un-groomed plants, I’m rather more of a plant enthusiast and botanist than flower arranger, but perhaps this might tempt you to try growing some South African bulbs.