Friday, February 6, 2009

Bulbine natalensis

Of course it's in the Asphodelaceac; look at it! It looks like King's Spear, Asphodeline lutea. As the specific epithet implies, this one is from Natal, or in modern geographic terms, KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa. Like many Southern Hemisphere plants, it flowers during our winter. We run three different temperature houses in the winter at the USNA: a cool house that stays just above freezing; a warm house that hovers around 80F; and this house that is in between. There is always action in the warm house, not so much here since the chrysanthemums for the Bonsai exhibit were culled and cut back, but spring is coming and it comes more quickly to a heated greenhouse.

I can remember my first Bulbine. I bought it from Karen Rexrode when she owned and operated Windy Hill Plant Farm in Aldie, Virgina. I know many of us in the Washington area frequented Windy Hill; I can look around my garden and see plants that came from there. or I can look at my windowsill and see the Bulbine. Of course Karen is still around doing many things including photography, but I miss her Nursery.

At the Arboretum the provenance, or authenticated history, of a plant is of critical importance; a plant with no provenance is essentially useless. If it's incredibly wonderful and heretofore unknown we like it anyway. Otherwise we prefer to have plants of unknown provenance grown in Public Gardens without scientific missions. Well.....most of us don't have such strict requirements for our personal gardens, but we do like to know the history of our plants and often they have a sentimental provenance Looking out my front window I see a bi-color Azalea that George Waters gave me, a propagation from a seedling selection he made. I see an Agave from Ed Aldrich and two large Ericas grown from 2"pots that I bought from Rock Spray Nursery many years ago at their only appearance at the Philadelphia Flower Show. I know in the back garden I have plants from my grandmother, and the Stapelia gigantea hanging on a post in the picture window was given to me by Hildreth from Bittersweet Hill Nurseries. I suppose in some sense the history of our plants is as important to us as the provenance of the Collections at the Arboretum.

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