Fragrance Far From Home: Flowers from Africa


The first bloom of 'Lucky Star' came in July.
Don't you love surprises? I had a great surprise this month when Gladiolus 'Lucky Star' bloomed for the second time this season! It's good that I left the stem after cutting the first bloom that emerged from the stalk, because that's where the second flower stem came from.

I'd ordered three bulbs from Old House Gardens in Ann Arbor, MI, and learned that 'Lucky Star' is one of the rarest in their stable of heirloom bulbs. This particular Gladiolus was hybridized by Joan Wright of New Zealand and introduced in 1963.

This hybrid of the African Gladiolus murielae is fragrant in the evening. Also, I learned that if the bulb (more correctly a corm in the case of glads) is large enough, it will send up a second bloom. From now on, once I cut off the first bloom of a gladiolus, I'll continue watering and feeding it, just in case.

Tulbaghia, AKA sweet garlic about to open.
The fact that 'Lucky Star' produced a second spike of flowers also speaks highly of Old House Gardens, which might offer it again next year, depending on the harvest. I sure hope so. I'd like to buy more next spring.

Another bulb from Africa that I've grown since last year is Tulbaghia simmerli, or South African Mauve Onion. I purchased just one bulb from Glasshouse Works last spring, and it sent up one or two blooms throughout the summer.

I'd planted the bulb February 2016 in a small pot with very well-drained soil. In May, I repotted it into a 10-inch diameter clay pot, which I stored in the garage through the winter.

Tulbaghia sits in a saucer of water.
The first surprise was that it lived. The second surprise was how quickly it multiplied this year, and the final surprise came in August when I saw how much water it requires. This is because its pot is jam-packed with roots because the one bulb has increased to at least a dozen and they're thirsty little devils.

The flower of this species is said to be fragrant. The leaves are fragrant, too, but smell like garlic. Another of its common names, in fact, is Sweet Garlic.

According to the Pacific Bulb Society, Tulbaghia simmleri typically blooms in late summer through fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

As I had last year, I'll be sure to give this plant a warmish winter home where temperatures don't go below around 40 degrees F. I think I'll have better luck knocking the bulbs out of the pot and dividing them next spring. They apparently like it on the crowded side to promote bloom, and that's what they're getting until they go dormant when I bring them inside before the first frost.
This bouquet includes both the Tulbaghia and the Gladiolus 'Lucky Star'.



1 comment: