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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Clivias--blooming now-great colors

                                           Clivia hybrid Gloria 
The last time I looked at clivias for sale was back in the Jurassic apparently, since I had no idea clivias come in peach, yellow, white, orange and green.

Clivia originates in S. Africa, and is pefectly adapted to So Cal—and surprisingly tough if grown in light shade. Gets by just fine on whatever rainfall we have. Available locally for gardens are the usual suspects in orange and salmon.

                                  Teaparty hybrids from                                           ( bred by Tom Wells)
However, if this is not enough gloryyou can buy very fancy (ie fairly  expensive--- about $8.00 U.S dollars for a packet of3 )--- seed for clivias in an amazing range of color and form and grow them in pots, take them to shows and win prizes . ( It does, however take about 3-4 years for them to flower from seed.)
Local nurseries have both orange and yellow plants in stock at about the same price as agapanthas. ( A bargain.)
 For seed try  ( Or or, or The last site is the most informative.

What’s more, there’s a Clivia Society    Who knew?
 Much tempted to take a flyer on some seed and fling myself into the whole clivia adventure.
Growing clivias:
 Clivia  leaves will burn in the sun, so in the interior valleys in So Cal, under  50% shade cloth is the easiest way to grow them.

For those devoted readers in northern climes who want to grow clivias as houseplants see Google where copious notes abound on growing them as indoor plants. Basically the same culture as a hippeastrum.
My experience is to grow them as you would an agapantha, but be sure the clivias are in shade. Regular garden soil. Mine have grown happily for a lot of years with almost no care. They bloom in the spring—right now along the So Cal coast. Being so cavalier with them is possible because they are S. African, Cape of Good Hope native----and their  original climate is so much like ours. 
You know my methods, Watson……Clivias were first  collected c. 1814 by William John Burchell
Accompanied by 10 Hottentots and 2  wagons Burchell explored and collected 50,00 plants to the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew, funding the expedition himself. ( He was the son of a wealthy nurseryman so he had both money and practical experience.) You can read his Travels as a Google digitalized book----free ** 
Burchell’s book about his expedition was  apparently , or possibly (?) inspired by Humboldt. Burchelle followed Humbodt’s footsteps to S. America (Brazil) kept copious notes which he left to Kew. His Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa, was published and re-printed in 1967.
Burchell's watercolor of crossing the Berg River

He also found  this very decorative zebra:

  Burchell encouraged the British settlement of S. Africa which eventuated in the Boer War; Britain wresting South Africa from both the native S. Africans and the Boer settlers. They had proceeded the British in appreciating the wonders of the Cape climate, flora and fauna.
Despite his achievements Burchell  he never attained super hero status. .Burchell’s efforts were not fully recognised by his contemporaries. ( Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle was a hard act to follow.)

 Burchell,was unlucky in love (his fiancé jilted him). His outstanding work as a botanist went largely under-appreciated. He became reclusive  in his later years and ended up committing suicide

. His delicate sensibility is evident in this water color from his South American travels.

                          The Beach at Rio de Janiero

Clivias are his present to the present. Burchell  may not have been a super hero but he was asplendid botanist, artist  and plant explorer, and an interested observer of Cape life under the Dutch.
Here's his water color of a kraal.    

     Notes: *from an article in the American Clivia Society website.

** For Travels in the Interior of S. Africa- go to:

Recommended, free and entertaining. Thank you Google!





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