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Plants in the Alpine House or Cold Frame: Late autumn bulbs at Kew

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Started by: Richard Wilford

Some of the late autumn bulbs flowering now in the Davies Alpine Hosue

Go to latest contribution by Jon Evans, 06 November 2010, 21:58. Go to bottom of this page.

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Contribution from Richard Wilford 04 November 2010, 15:03top / bottom of page

The main flush of autumn bulbs is now mostly over but there are still some interesting species flowering in early November. They are displayed in the Davies Alpine House at Kew, in the plunge beds and in pots on the benches.

The autumn flowering species of Crocus are still going and one of the best is C. goulimyi, which comes from the Peloponnese in southern Greece. The tall, goblet-shaped flowers show a little variation, from the daker purple forms like the one below, to pale, almost white-flowered plants. It is easily grown in a pot and can build up to make a beautiful display at this time of year.

One of my favourite autumn flowering species is the Balearic C. cambessedesii. This is one of the smallest species, with white flowers delicately marked with dark 'feathers' on the outer surface of the perianth segments.

Some of the more unusual bulbs at this time of year are from South Africa. They include Daubenya marginata, from the north-western parts of the Cape region. The orange-red flowers appear between the two green leaves.

There are two species of Polyxena on display at the moment. The white-flowered P. ensifolia can have narrow to braodly ovate leaves. The flowers emerge from between these two leaves. This species has a wide distribution in south-west South Africa but is not reliably hardy, doing best in frost-free conditions.

The other species to see now is P. corymbosa. This has pink to purple-lilac flowers, held in a dense raceme and several narrow, linear leaves. The whole plant is only a few centimetres tall. It is confined in the wild to the south-west Cape.

Oxalis is the seventh largest genus in the Cape Floral Region, with over 90 endemic species found there. One is Oxalis hirta. It was introduced as long ago as 1793 but its untidy habit (the stems quickly lengthen and fall over) and flowers that only open in the sun (which can be rare in November), mean it seems not to be widely grown. However, it looks wonderful on a sunny day, especially at the beginning of the flowering period, while the stems are still relatively short. This large-flowered, bright magenta form, called 'Gothenburg' came from Henrik Zetterlund at Gothenburg Botanic Garden and received a Preliminary Commendation in 1984.

Contribution from Jon Evans 05 November 2010, 13:41top / bottom of page

Hi Richard

The Davies Alpine House is looking good as usual. I'm interested in the plant with white tubular flowers in the centre of the first general view of the house. Please could you tell us what it is, and perhaps post a better view.



Contribution from Richard Wilford 06 November 2010, 16:50top / bottom of page

Hi Jon,

The plant is Strumaria gigantea (Amaryllidaceae) - or maybe Strumaria phonolithica, I need to get the name checked. At the moment we have it labelled as the former. It comes from Namibia. We have had a couple of years and obtained it from the Muller-Doblies in Germany. It's not very 'alpine' but good for late interest and goes with several other species of Strumaria we have, most of which have just about finished flowering now.


Contribution from Jon Evans 06 November 2010, 21:58top / bottom of page

Thanks Richard

I wondered if that was what it was - Kit showed a photo of the leaves in her talk to the South African Bulb Group three or four weeks ago, but I have never seen it in flower, so I'm really pleased to see what it looks like. It looks like a really good plant, at least for those of us prepared to keep a greenhouse frost-free.

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