Thursday, September 11, 2008
There is a range of bulbs which bloom in late summer, before the official start of fall. Many of them are amaryllids, and they bring to the garden a fresh, vivacious, flamboyant glamour which really helps to perk things up during the dog days. Even the names used for these plants have a sort of humor and spark which lift our spirits as the heat and humidity pull them down. This is hurricane season, so some of these plants are called hurricane lilies. Because they push up blooming stalks right from the earth without accompanying foliage, some have variously been called naked ladies and naked boys.
Here’s a South American variation on this theme. This is Rhodophiala bifida, a plant native to far southern South America. Curiously, sometime in the recent past (i.e. the past four hundred years) this plant was introduced to Texas and became both established and widely distributed. In the English-speaking world it is widely called oxblood lily: the color of the flowers explains that.
The spathe of this plant was poking a bit above ground several weeks ago, but nothing more happened. Last week hurricane Hanna passed nearby and brought with it nearly torrential rains. The Rhodophiala sprang into action, and almost overnight the scape had reached a height of eight or ten inches.
Here in zone 7 Maryland we are probably near the northern limit for its successful cultivation in the garden. A group I planted decades ago survived in the open near a wall for years, but eventually they became much debilitated by narcissus bulb fly and disappeared. The plant in the image grows in a cold frame, where it was planted into the soil of the frame. This seems to be an ideal arrangement in our climate.
The garden worthy flora of Chile is getting a lot of attention now, and one result of this is the importation of seed and plants of several other species of Rhodophiala in other flower colors. I’m trying some of these from seed now: maybe in a few years I’ll have some more pictures.