Brunsvigia--PBS TOW

Mary Sue Ittner
Sun, 12 Jan 2003 13:39:50 PST
Dear Bill,

Thank you so much for your wonderful introduction to Brunsvigia. By showing your pictures you have demonstrated that indeed it is possible to grow these beauties and get them to flower. I have admired them in photographs, but never seen them in person. I saw leaves in South Africa and sometimes in great profusion and liked to imagine them in bloom. There is an awesome picture in the Nieuwoudtville flower guide of B. bosmaniae in massed bloom.

I am hoping Rob in Tasmania is going to tell us about his experiences with Brunsvigia and give us a report on the B. josephinae that he worried might be virused.

My experiences are very limited. I have purchased bulbs of B. minor thinking they'd be small and most likely to bloom in a container and was given a couple by Jim Robinett. They don't seem to be growing much and have never flowered. But they also have been completely dry in summer and now Rachel and Diana are suggesting some water so their roots don't dry out during their dormancy so perhaps that will help. Also I have often moved my pots to the shade for dormancy and they probably aren't getting enough heat if Bill thinks they need a baking.

In the IBS discussion recently Rachel also suggested fire might be a motivator for bloom so Bill's getting them to bloom without fire is reassuring. She suggested, "Either try smoke water, or cover the pot with plastic and pump some smoke in, leave it for 24 hours and then take the plastic off.  Do this while the bulbs are dormant.  I know that many people do stimulate flowering of bulbs by using smoke, so why not Brunsvigias.  I have never tried, but it certainly won't harm the plants, so is worth a try. "

Rachel if you are in town and reading this, when in dormancy would you try this? How soon after a fire do they bloom? Are they like some of the other Amaryllids that come up right away or do they bloom the next fall after a fire?

I have one very sad looking B. josephinae which Jana gave me. I don't think I have encouraged or appreciated it enough and it may be reacting to that since when she gave it to me I think I said something like would I live long enough to see it bloom.

On the other hand I have two species, B. orientalis and B. bosmaniae, that look much better that were also gifts from her from Silverhill seed she started and gave to me after they had germinated and were growing. They are young plants so it is clearly much too soon to hope for blooms but they are looking very good and growing well. I was glad to see Bill had a picture of the latter to make me hope it will one day flower. I like the leaves on this one. When can you tell if Brunsvigia is big enough to bloom? Is it the size of the bulb or the number of leaves?

I have one B. marginata. It was the only one of that seed batch to make it. It is growing slowly, but looks fine.

Now for true confessions I believe Michael Vassar gave some seed of B. grandiflora from the Huntington Gardens to the IBS BX and I started some and they grew well. Somewhere along the way I forgot that they came from a summer rainfall area and have been treating them as winter growing and summer dormant. And they have been growing that way in response. I was potting them up this year (before reading that Rachel suggests like with Amaryllis belladonna the time for transplanting them is when they are in growth) and was horrified to see that this was a plant wanting summer rainfall. So I was relieved to see Rhoda writing about this species (and gregaria): "Despite being classified as from different rainfall regions, these two Brunsvigia species behave similarly here in the wild:  if the bulb skips flowering or is still immature, the leaves appear in January and continue to grow until about July, when they gradually dry up.  If the bulb does produce a flower, the leaves appear at about the time of flowering, from late January to March." So in the wild they start to grow in summer to early fall and grow into winter. So help Bill, Rhoda, and Rachel. What should I do with these bulbs to get them back on track or should I just see if they can learn to cope with a very wet winter and a dry summer? Or just give them year round water?

Finally Bill had seed of Brunsvigia gregaria when he was at Cathy's PBS meeting in May and I purchased some. It germinated well and I am thrilled to read that it is one of the easier ones to get to flower. Bill, given Rhoda's comments on when the ones grow in her part of South Africa, when do yours grow in New Zealand? I had planned to keep my growing as long as possible and dry off this summer.

By the way Brunsvigia orientalis, bosmaniae  and grandiflora seem to be able to tolerate a lot of winter rain fall since I haven't sheltered mine at all. My husband thinks we have had about 30 inches (76 cm.) since it started raining in November and there is lot's more to come.

Mary Sue 

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