Dear All, In 2000 I organized topics of the week for the IBS list. One of the topics was Lachenalia. Since the majority of the members of this list weren't on the IBS list when I was doing the topics I emailed Don Journet who lives in Australia and asked him if I could share his remarks with this group and he said yes. He also wrote on article on Lachenalia in BULBS that he is willing to share so I'm including information from both. Don has a Lachenalia collection registered by the Ornamental Plants Conservation Association of Australia (OPCAA). There is a lot of information to absorb so I'm going to send it in three parts so that no message is too long. This first will be background information and how to grow them. Lachenalia Jacq. f. Murray. Liliaceae (Hyacinthaceae). This tells us that the name Lachenalia was first used by Joseph Franz Jacquin but was actually first published by J. A. Murray. For many years Lachenalia was included in the Family Liliaceae but has relatively recently been placed in a new family Hyacinthaceae. Jacquin used the name Lachenalia in honour of Werner de Lachenal an eminent Swiss botanist and a professor at Basel in Switzerland. It has been represented in Australian gardens for many years, although relatively few species and hybrids have been available even from specialists. I imagine that a similar lack of variety in general cultivation exists almost universally. The most readily available have been those sold as "Soldier Boys". The commonly available bulbs include Lachenalia aloides 'Quadricolor', L. aloides 'Aurea', L. bulbifera (syn. L pendula), L. contaminata (often wrongly called L. bachmannii), L. mutabilis and L. pallida. A few other species have been sometimes available from bulb nurseries and specialists. I am aware of two other collections the major one being that at the National Botanic Gardens of South Africa under the care of the eminent horticulturist Graham Duncan and the other was that of Trevor S. Crosby in England. One of the specialist nurseries from whence a good number of my plants originated was The Botanist Nursery in Sydney owned and run by Bruce Knight. I also obtained seed from the now closed Rust-en-Vrede Nursery in South Africa. Lachenalia occur predominantly in the winter-rainfall districts of southern Africa, with the majority of species coming from western and south-western Cape. Recently, a number of new species have been found in the southern Namaqualand area. Other species occur as far afield as the Transkei, south-western Orange Free State and across the southern parts of Namibia to the north. The primary flower colour of different species ranges from white through yellows, oranges, reds, purples and violets to blue. In many flowers the colour combinations are quite complex, making descriptions difficult. Some have very strongly contrasting colours such as yellow with purple tips or white with magenta tips. Others are delicate shades of pink, yellow, lilac, green or magenta. In their native southern Africa Lachenalia are to be found growing in a range of climatic conditions and soils from almost pure sand to heavy clay; from humus rich to mineral rich; and from dry to seasonally inundated. Fortunately they seem to be quite accommodating provided certain rules are observed. Those that grow in dry sandy areas do not like to be kept very wet and those from heavy moist soils do not like to find themselves completely dry out mid season. The answer seems to be to maintain a happy medium and perhaps to give one or two species special attention. If a well-drained growing medium is used and regular watering carried out during the growing season most species will reward the grower with delightful flowers and either seed or small bulbs or both. As I have a collection of some 90 different species, hybrids, cultivars and variations I find it necessary to keep the majority in pots. This enables me to keep the bulbs dry in summer when other plants need watering and to be placed in suitably protected areas of the garden in winter when they require good growing conditions. I live in south-eastern Australia in the state of Victoria about 32 miles (50km) west of Melbourne at the base of the Great Dividing Range. The grid reference is 144 25 E and 37 40 S and the USDA hardiness rating would be probably closest to 9b. We occasionally get winter temperatures down to -5C (23F) and summer temperatures can exceed 40C (104F) for several consecutive days. I must emphasise that the minimum temperature is only sustained for a short period usually just before dawn but we can get sub zero temperatures for the best part of the night. We certainly do not suffer from frozen ground and the ice on puddles lasts for a short time only as the temperature soon rises above freezing. To protect my Lachenalia I position them under the north-eastern and northern overhang of Eucalyptus trees where they will get full winter sunlight but ice crystals formed in the air will not fall on their leaves. There is no question that the plants experience temperatures below freezing but they all seem to survive. I do try to avoid watering the pots in the evening when there is a forecast of frost. The growing medium that I use for mature bulbs is based upon a soil-less potting mix obtained locally consisting of aged ground pine bark to which has been added course sand. To 6 parts of the basic mix I add 6 parts of course sand, 2 parts of clay loam and 2 parts of well-rotted cow manure. A small quantity, about one quarter of a part each of dolomite and blood and bone are added. The intention here is to add material that will tend to stop the mixture becoming too acid that is keep the pH figure up and add slow release fertilizer to sustain healthy growth over the long season. For species that require better drainage I double or in some cases treble the amount of course sand. Another technique I have used for bulbs that seem prone to rotting is to place the bulbs in pure sand above the regular potting mix. The roots find their way through the sand and into the more nutrient rich mix below. This way the proportion of air around the bulbs is increased and risk of rotting reduced. A potentially serious problem arising after the dormant period is the difficulty experienced rewetting the soil-less potting mixes. The clay loam is added in an attempt to buffer the mix against low pH values and to enable the potting mix to rewet after the dormant period. In particularly dry years I am suspicious that I have lost collection material simply because the bulbs have never received enough moisture to begin growth or sustain growth for a long enough period.