Monday, July 27, 2009

Calla lilies

Although I’ve grown these South African plants all of my gardening life, I have never felt comfortable about them as garden plants. Long ago I realized that one of them, Zantedeschia albomaculata, was hardy in our gardens. And that realization prompted me to try a few others. But as a group, calla lilies have yet to achieve a permanent place in my garden.
It’s time to change that. Evidently they are a lot more reliable as garden plants than my limited experience has suggested. A few years ago Wayne and I saw huge, floriferous clumps in a western Virginia garden. These plants topped out at three and four feet high and had formed thick clumps. The discussions on the Internet forums suggest that they are surviving winters well north of me. Get busy, Jim…
Zantedeschia are aroids, jack-in-the-pulpit relatives. What we call the flower is in fact a colorful modified leaf, technically a spathe, which surround the real flowers. The real flowers are inconspicuous little things hidden inside that spathe. The spathe lasts in good condition much longer than any true flower: little wonder that these are popular florist flowers.
I’m now growing eight different cultivars – that’s a fraction of what’s currently available. The one in the image above is ‘Sunshine’. It was planted in late June and is in bloom already.

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