At the edge of the wheat-fields and along the road side verges, where the farmers spray weed-killer and the authorities send out teams with ride on mowers. One of the plants they fight, in the boggy hollows where the winter rain collects, is this vlei lily. Wurmbea stricta
I have enjoyed exploring vernal pools in Californian blogs Miramar-Mounds and Santa-Rosa-Plateau-San-Diego.Vernal – snow-melt – how romantic and fairy tale that sounds, compared to winter rain sodding down. Altho this July we only got half what we got last year. Vleis and pans are our seasonal wetlands. Baked dry and hard, or shrunk back to a tiny remnant in summer. Then when it rains, lush arums and reeds.
Driving home from Cape Town, late yesterday afternoon, we stopped to photograph these flowers. Some just starting to show their green spears, some showing the first colour, and others already in a luminous drift. The white flowers shimmering with their burgundy twirled hearts.
The buds tightly furled parachute silk, and the flowers opening from the bottom of the spike. You can see why this has been a coveted plant on my wish list for thirty gardening years. I tried seeds, but getting a bog plant to germinate was too much of a challenge for me. Then we went to the Rare Plant Fair and I could get bulbs.
We needed, a swale to cope with floods in a winter downpour when the heavens open, and a bog garden for arum lilies, reeds and red hot pokers, Wachendorfia and these vlei lilies. In September 2007 we started with the inherited plum trees. Build a bridge. Dig a hole. And add plants, while the gardener whines with impatience. T
he wall has open panels at the bottom – hoping the wildlife will take the hint and come this way please. And also to let the flood water move on/away. Cats slip thru as an escape route too.
And just one year later, that hole is filled with nature’s bounty of green. Hey, we all like to dangle our toes in cool water in summer thank you. In July looking across to Paradise.
Another year. That January we had plums, not this year tho. Looking across the bridge in March. Then in May the optimistic bulbs went into their clay pots in the bog … By November the restios are tall with their spirals of flowers.
And now we have buds
And flowers in our garden.
Colchicum (crocus, saffron) family. Formerly Onixotis (which is what my label said!) Deep seated corm. 3 narrow dark green leaves. Tepals varying in colour from pure white to pale pink. Wurmbea stricta is a common species in seasonally inundated swamps and pools, and in roadside ditches, occurring in heavy clay soil. It grows in full sun and is found throughout the southwestern, western and northern parts of the Western Cape, and in southern Namaqualand. It likes company and forms large colonies, often flowering en masse. The flower spikes appear from late winter to late spring, blooming for a period of two to three weeks. Wurmbea is named after F. von Wurmb, a Dutch merchant in Java. The specific epithet stricta from Latin, meaning very straight, refers to the leaves that resemble knitting needles. Honey bees pollinate the flowers. The corms are planted in early autumn, to rest 3-4 cm below soil level. They are well suited to deep containers, rock garden pockets and herbaceous borders, and must preferably have full sun for at least half the day, in order to flower successfully. Potted specimens can also be submerged into shallow garden ponds, allowing about 5 cm of water above the rim of the pot, and removed and dried off completely in early summer.
Pictures by Jurg and Diana, words by Diana of Elephant's Eye