by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
For Alice, and all my readers with March birthdays
Our garden year for South Africa begins in March. As the summer heat fades, and the autumn equinox approaches, the March lilies Amaryllis belladonna burst into an exuberant cancan. The days are shorter, the evenings at least are cool and kind to soft green leaves. In March Western Cape gardens heave a deep sigh of relief.
|Jurg's March lilies in 2013|
|Diana's March lilies in 2013|
In the North American style of Naked Ladies, first the pink flowers burst thru, standing tall and proud in frou frou skirts. Some have darker deeper pink skirts, others are so pale as to be almost white.
|March lily buds in 2011|
We've had THREE millimetres this month with rain promised for the weekend. The fynbos in the Western Cape, in a good year – a recovering from a previous fire year, has drifts and swathes of March lilies. Along the roads, as we rush thru our busy lives, these flamboyant flowers are unmissable.
|March lilies opening in 2011|
|Amaryllis belladonna in 2011|
Later these flowers will make large green seeds, almost as big as grapes. The seedlings grow easily where the seed falls. And these plants multiply. I can imagine them becoming an invasive problem elsewhere – but we love to see our gardens returning to life. Later still, when the party is over, with the benefit of winter rain, the big bulbs will send up the daily grind of green leaves for next year’s flowers. Fleshy thick strap-shaped leaves like Clivia. Building up reinforcements to see the plant thru the next summer’s aestivation rest (swirling ice cubes in a tall glass of something cold on the verandah!) till the cycle starts again.
|March lily petals in 2011|
The flowers open white, deepening to pink as the flowers wear their grownup party dresses.
From PlantZAfrica - The family Amaryllidaceae forms a large group of over sixty genera, which are mainly centred in southern Africa with smaller distributions in Andean South America. Other southern African genera in this family include Clivia, Crinum, Cyrtanthus, Nerine and Scadoxus. Hippeastrum, which some gardeners mistakenly call amaryllis, is a large South American genus. Other northern hemisphere genera include Narcissus (daffodils), Galanthus and Leucojum. Growing amaryllids - advice from the Harold Porter National Botanical Garden.
Scented flowers (bit fiercely so, if you park your nose IN the trumpet). Flowers face into the full sun. ‘Naked Lady’ – flowers before leaves – is called hysteranthy. Amaryllis was a beautiful Greek shepherdess. Belladonna = beautiful lady. Their natural habitat is a small dense group among rocks. Bulbs must be planted with their necks at soil level (which helps the gardener, ‘cos you can SEE where the dormant bulbs are lurking). Tolerate quite arid conditions. Growing naturally in fynbos, they emerge abundantly after fire. Pollinated by hawk moths or carpenter bees.
|Stamens in the March lily in 2011|
|Pollen of March lily in 2011|
All these stages in the life of a March lily flower were photographed on the 22nd March 2011. From the emerging bud, thru the opening and fully opened flower, all the way to pollen on the stamens.
|Amaryllis belladonna at Elephant's Eye in 2014|
In 2014 the flowers are coming slowly. Since the bulbs can be grown in pots of sandy soil, some will go with us to False Bay.
Pictures by Diana and Jurg Studer of Elephant's Eye
(in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa)
(If you mouse over brown text, it turns shriek pink. Those are my links.
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