Weird and Wonderful Flowers

Cape fuchsia blooms all summer.
Who doesn't like weird flowers? Not just unusual, but unexpected. They pop up at different times throughout the summer, the headliners of my summer.

I can never know if I'd have a long enough season or enough sun, for that matter, to get some of these plants to thrive or to flower.

Cape fuchsia surprised me when it came back to life this spring after wintering over in the ground. I hadn't mulched or protected it in any significant way. But I've had two sequential seasons of enjoyment of this nearly-tropical plant, which is like an upright fuchsia, but it's actually Phygelius capensis, and is from the Cape region of South Africa.

Hummingbirds like to visit its flowers, which dangle on upright stems rising above the compact plant. The flowers are coral-rose-colored and open from the bottom upwards. Give it partial sun and average water, and it will bloom all summer long. Who could ask for more?

A plant as cute as its name: Pinguicula.
My friend Carol gave me a whole bunch of orchids, which aren't blooming yet, but the one I've had the most fun with this summer has been the butter wort. It's a carnivorous plant, botanically known as Pinguicula, that uses a sticky substance on its leaves to lure, trap and eat insects.

I was really excited to see this little cutie flower. I did some research and learned there are dozens of species and several hybrids, so I don't really know what exactly this one is. But its flower has lasted for a couple of days and I'll let it go to seed and see what happens.

Polianthes 'Pink Sapphire'
Last year I purchased a few tuberoses (Polianthes tuberosa). These are the typically white and waxy spikes that exude a scent like a hyacinth with super powers. For me, the fragrance is pleasant outdoors or indoors during the daytime, but I have to move cut stems to another room during the night. One of the more exotic, because of its color, was the double-flowered 'Pink Sapphire'.

I planted the tuber (I only bought one) in a container along with a tropical rain lily, a fuzzy foxglove and a Brunfelsia that still hasn't bloomed, which is a story in itself.

The pink double tuberose finally bloomed last year in mid-August, and it wintered over in its pot in the garage. This year it sent up two stems, the first one on August 20 and then on September 20. I will keep feeding it and perhaps it will give me another flower on October 20.

Normally, I'd store the container again in the garage as I did last winter, but first I'll have to extract the Brunfelsia, which is an early spring bloomer.

I don't want to disturb the whole pot until at least mid-October in order to give all the plants every opportunity to grow good roots for next year.
Polianthes 'Pearl'

This spring I ordered five tubers of 'Pearl', a double white Polianthes. They came from Old House Gardens.

It wasn't my first tuberose rodeo, I have to say. I'd tried them before, only to have them rot in the pot. Scott Kunst, founder of Old House Gardens, told me the key was to get large tubers, "the size of a man's thumb." And that's what they sent.

The first one bloomed July 16; the second August 28, the third September 3, and number four on September 22. The fifth one still has a chance, as it's been really hot for late September.

I will keep growing Polianthes as long as I have a place to store them. We had a mild winter last year, but I have little nooks and crannies in the garage and the workroom behind the garage, areas that don't usually dip below about 40 degrees.

For colder spots, I'll make sure the soil in the pot is completely dry before placing the pot into newspaper or Styrofoam-lined cardboard boxes. I keep the boxes out of drafts caused by opening the garage door, and off the cold floor on shelves. It's worked for me so far and for many plants besides the tuberoses.


  1. That fuchsia is a looker. I might try it. If it lives over winter for you it should for me. I think I live further south than you do. Hmmmmm....

  2. Glad you are enjoying the butterwort. Mine usually keep their flowers for a few weeks but have never gone to seed. I'll be interested to know if yours does. Looking forward to seeing some of those orchids in bloom. Carol