We mail-ordered a handful of Lachenalia aloides var quadricolor bulbs to plant in autumn. If that had been what we received & if they had they done well, we would have had a pleasing drift of winter-blooming tri-colored flower spikes. But most of the bulbs never appeared the following winter or spring, & the one that did succeed appears to be a completely different lachenalia, L splendida (tip o' the hat to Steve "Cereoid" for identifying it), which is pleasing enough, but much less colorful than what we ordered.
I wasn't disappointed in the bloom, though, just in the failure of the greater majority of the bulbs to show themselves at all. A drift of these would be quite wonderful; one little chap standing there bravely upright all by himself has an air of sadness about it.
Had they done better I would've added more lachenalias to sunny areas, but at present I'm not convinced they will grow in our climate, let alone naturalize as they would in a warmer zone. The rest of the bulbs never made a showing, & even this lonely successful bloom did not return the following year.
Lachenalia is a South African native of the hyacinth family. L. splendida in particular is from western Cape Province, the heart of lachenalia country. The various species hybridize from mere proximity & pure strains are not always available, which is possibly why we weren't shipped the precise bulbs we ordered.
Lachenalia is tender for Puget Sound weather & when attempted has to be placed in the sunniest spot possible. This lone survivor was in full bloom mid-March (2003), when the first photo was taken. The second photo is from the second week in April, when the flower was not yet about to wear out. It's quite small, much slenderer & no taller than a grape hyacinth, at eight inches, with hardly any foliage.They can be floriferous (multiflowering) though all we got was the one spike.
We also have a different lachenalea (L. purpureo-caerulea) is a houseplant which took three or four years to finally bloom, but more reliably produced late winter succulent leaves in our window sill.
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