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Ixia – a lovely South African native

Ixia - a lovely South African nativeOK, so I’m a convert. I’ve been gardening mostly with “exotic” plants (i.e. not our native South African plants) simply because I prefer the so-called exotics. Or so I thought. I do have a few indigenous plants in my garden but if I’m being very honest, they are not my favourites, and were not planted by me. Hence the belief that I prefer “exotics”. In April I planted all the bulbs I bought and amongst those were Freesias and my new favourite, Ixias, both of which are native to South Africa.

The Ixias were a freebie included by the Bulb Company when I ordered all my spring flowering bulbs. After lovingly planting all my “exotic” bulbs, as an after thought,  I bunged the free Ixias in a huge, slightly broken, not very attractive terracotta pot that I put right outside my office doors – the doors that lead outside. They sat in the pot and I confess that I didn’t water them very regularly, was disinterested in them and paid them no very little attention. Not even when the shoots emerged and looked kinda scraggly did I take much notice. I just kept thinking “I must move that awful pot sometime”.  The leaves of the plants continued to grow and started looking moderately attractive. “Hmmm, not too shabby after all”, I thought as the stems started to emerge.

And then two weeks ago a wonderful thing happened…

The first flower buds started appearing atop a long wiry stem. And oh they are sooo pretty! My pack of bulbs must have been mixed, because I seem to have them in all sorts of colours. Reds, orange, yellows, yellow with a touch of red, pinks … and they look sort of wild and wonderful all tumbling over the rim of the pot. Some stand upright but mostly they are waving around and tumbling. Now the first thing I do every morning is go to the pot to see if there are any new colours and I waste about half an hour taking endless photos of them … they are a delight to photograph (Click the images below to view the enlargements).

Some photographs of the Ixias …

[one_half]The first budsThe first buds[/one_half]

[one_half_last]More buds, different coloursMore buds, different colours[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Tumbling out of the pot …In the pot ...[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Even the pot looks quite nice nowEven the pot looks quite nice now[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Pretty pink IxiasPretty pink Ixias[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Yellow with red centresYellow with red centres[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Yellow with darker centresYellow with darker centres[/one_half]

[one_half_last]More pinks – in the sunMore pinks - in the sun[/one_half_last]

[one_third]Orange with dark centresOrange with dark centres[/one_third]

[one_third]The yellow IxiasThe yellow Ixias[/one_third]

[one_third_last]Orangey pink colourOrangey pink colour[/one_third_last]

This Info from Wikipedia …

The genus Ixia consists of a number of cormous plants native to South Africa from the Iridaceae family and Ixioideae subfamily. Some of them are known as the corn lily. Some distinctive traits include the sword-like leaves, and long wiry stems with star-shaped flowers. The popular corn lily has a specific, not very intense fragrance (Wikipedia says it smells like vegetables, I don’t agree!). The Ixia are also used sometimes as ornamental plants. The genus name is derived from the Greek words ixias, meaning “the chameleon plant”, and physis, meaning “bladder”. 

I think they are supposed to stand straigh up – mine are sort of “tumbling” towards the sun. I don’t think they get quite enough sun in that spot but thats as sunny as it gets in my garden. Only about 20 are in bloom right now with another 80 in bud! Should be pretty spectacular when more are flowering. I even have two Ixia Viridiflora – they are a rare version which are turquoise – I wonder if they will make it – I don’t remember where in the pot I planted them. (Known as Green ixia or groenkalossie – in Afrikaans- it is an exquisite species with many-flowered spikes of sea-green blooms with black centres).

So now I’m wondering … have YOU ever planted something half-heartedly, just because it “was there”, and then fallen in love with it? I’d love to hear!

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Final bulb delivery and bulb update

I finished planting out all my bulbs for the season over the Easter Weekend but wanted to get a few more Tulip Bulbs, because tulips are my daughters favourite flower. When I look at the varieties of Tulips available to purchase overseas (both in Europe and in the USA) I am very disappointed that all that is available to us here is the standard, ordinary tulip (see update below – they seem to have just become available). Coupled with that the colour options available here are extremely limited – all the colour options appear as “sold out” on the website of South Africa’s major Bulb Provider (the company everyone seems to get their bulbs from) and yet I have not seen a single tulip bulb on sale at any of the nurseries. Perhaps they are still coming, I don’t know, but I only had 32 red tulip bulbs and so jumped on the “mixed” packs when the website finally had stock. I received my delivery yesterday and now I have another 75 Tulip bulbs to plant. And, they sent me ANOTHER one of those “Free Gift Packs” … so I have another 300 bulbs to plant this weekend.

A lot of the bulbs I planted two/three weeks ago are already coming up – I have no idea whether this is normal. I was not expecting to see them so soon, but there it is. Most of them have sent up shoots and its fun to see – and at least I know they haven’t been eaten by the mole rats. I took a few photos to share with you of my “bulb sprouts” (what is the correct terminology for this?).

[one_half]Tulip bulbs deliveryTulip Bulbs[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Ixias and Ixia ViridifloraIxias[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Dutch IrisesDutch Irises[/one_half]


I’d be interested to know if it is normal for bulbs to grow so quickly. I can’t find any info in my books about how soon exactly after planting the shoots should appear.

UPDATE: I have just visited the website again and now they have all sorts of tulips available including the less ordinary ones that I have admired on some overseas gardening websites. YAY!! But unfortunately they are expensive and I have already blown my entire “bulb budget”, so I’ll have to see what I can do …

Happy Gardening


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Bulb planting weekend – Part II

I planted all 969 bulbs!! I’m exhausted! And I hurt myself – I have a big gash on my ankle from a clumsy fall. I hope its worth it. I’ll be gutted if I don’t have a garden full of flowers come spring. Right now I look and feel like this …

After planting 800+ bulbs!

Bulbs planted this weekend:

In the Bed under the Office Window (under and in between the Nandina’s):
At the back – Leucojum aestivum – 20Check
In front of them – Muscari – dainty white – 20Check

In the “Camellia bed”:
Alliums – 100 (I ordered 50, they gave me an extra 50 for free = 100)Check
Narcissus cantabricus – 4 (in “compots”, so I can move and plant later)Check

In the Front Garden “Gardenia bed”:
Sparaxis – 35 (planted in the sunniest corner away from the Gardenias)Check

In the “Rose Bed”:
Ranunculus white – 70Check
Ranunculus pink – 35Check
Ornithogalum white – 35Check

Back garden bed under the Birch Tree:
Dutch Iris pale blue and white – 75Check

Back garden bed at the front of the border:
Tritonias – 35Check

Back Garden Bed under the Pepper Tree area:
Freesias – 235Check

Outside the property, on the verge:
Anemones – 100Check(might get more – only a small part of the verge covered)

In various containers and pots:
Narcissus mixed – 75Check
Rare indigeneous bulbs – 46Check
Ixias – 35Check

Tulips – 48 – STILL TO DO! Have the container but ran out of potting soil … need to go and get one more bag of potting soil – yikes, we know how that turns out 🙂

The Dream …

[one_half]This is what I am hoping for …Bulb planting[/one_half]

[one_half_last]and dreaming of …Bulb planting[/one_half_last]

The Verdict:
With the bulb planting tool thingy it was actually very EASY! My soil is wonderfully friable, the bulb tool thingy (Dibber) went in easily creating the holes for bulbs that went straight into the soil and I was able to do many bulbs per minute! Make the holes, pop the bulbs in and cover. Easy! What a pleasure that was! What did take time was the containers. I had a plan I wanted to follow (that I had seen in a book) and it just didn’t work out for me, so in the end I just planted the bulbs in the containers the way I felt like doing it, changed my mind a few times and … well they are all planted somewhere now!

What did NOT work well:
The bulbs that went into the bulb baskets took a little longer and I feel they are a waste. I bought them to protect the bulbs from the mole rates – but the two solar mole repeller are doing their thing – they emit a buzzing sound every few seconds so hopefully the mole rats stay away. So far there are no new mole hills, so it might actually be working. I only used five of the trays in the end because I found it so much easier using the dibber. I have lots going spare now, I hope I can find some use for them. I might use them for the Tulips seeing as those bulbs need to be lifted and thrown out (so the books tell me – why not just leave them in the soil to rot and turn to compost I wonder?).


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Bulb planting weekend – Part I

I’ve mentioned before that I want to have a spring garden filled with gorgeous blooms that smell heavenly and the last two months whilst visiting the blogs of our new gardening friends in the Northern Hemisphere, their wonderful gardens filled with daffodils, tulips, snowdrops, crocus, narcissus and irises have had me waiting patiently for the Easter Weekend to sink my bulbs into the ground.

New to gardening, bulb planting is something I’ve not done before so I needed books and tools and of course … BULBS! I’ve been buying and collecting bulbs now for about 6 weeks and as the books tell me to plant when the weather has changed –  usually by Easter, guess what I’m doing this weekend? Planting all +/-800 bulbs I’ve collected!

So this is part one of my Bulb Planting Weekend – The “Before” post!

[one_half]Dexter very excited about helping!Dexter looking forward to helping ...[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Delivery from HadecoThe Hadeco Delivery[/one_half_last]

[one_half]Free gift from Hadeco – Extra 175 Bulbs!An extra 175 Bulbs![/one_half]

[one_half_last]All the bulb paraphenaliaAll my "stuff"[/one_half_last]

So there you have it – Now you know what I’m doing today and tomorrow! I’ll be back on the blog once they have all been planted. If you don’t see me for a while … well then you will know that I’m up to my eyeballs in BULBS!!

Happy Gardening

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Rare Indigenous Bulb purchases

My only gardening experience prior to my current garden was many, many years ago (20 to be exact) when I lived in a rented cottage in Green Point. The cottage had a tiny garden, total size about 8 square metres of which most was lawn. In the beds around the lawn I half-heartedly dabbled with planting a few things – mostly annuals and one year I bought a batch of bulbs and by some fluke ended up with a lovely little garden full of spring flowers – I recall daffodils, ranunculus and freesias – and for weeks on end I had huge bunches of cut flowers in the cottage, thanks to that one time planting. I remember it being very easy (all I did was plant and water, I don’t think I ever fed them). I am hoping to do something similar in my own garden this year, so I’ve already purchased Alliums, Freesias, Anemones, Ranunculus and Dutch Iris which will be going into the ground next month. I still want to get some Daffodils and Tulip bulbs which I haven’t found yet at the nurseries.

At the Rare Plant Fair held at Rustenberg which I attended yesterday I met a Horticulturist called Jim Holmes ( He had an interesting selection of rare bulbs for sale. Initially I walked on thinking I had quite enough bulbs already but after tea we wondered back over to Jim’s stand and the photographs of the blooms these bulbs will morph into had me taking a second look. Needless to say I walked away with a bunch of bulbs I had no clue about other than that they may give me some pretty interesting flowers if I plant and treat them right. A few months ago I bought a book called “Grow Bulbs” by Graham Duncan, a specialist horticulturist at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden where he curates the collection of indigenous South African bulbs. How useful that book is now! I’ve spent a few hours doing my “homework” and realise now that these bulbs are going to require some commitment and extra care. Many are rare or classified as vulnerable so I feel some sort of responsibility in making them grow and hopefully getting them to thrive.

So here are notes and photos I have found on my purchases and for those that are interested I have added notes about how I have to plant them and care for them to get them to flower.


1). ALL the bulbs I purchased require full sun. (yikes!). That will be the biggest challenge and may require daily moving around of the bulbs. To do that I will have to plant them in pots as I have very limited full sun areas.
2). I have a mole / vole / some underground-digger-animal problem here from time to time. So planting the bulbs in pots is definitely the way to go.

The Bulbs and my notes

Geissorhiza radians
Geissorhiza radiansThis is an endangered plant know as Cup of Wine. These require constant moisture throughout the growing period and at flowering time. According to the book they do best in containers that are placed in saucers filled with water in winter and spring. I have eight.[/one_half]

Geissorhiza splendidissima
Geissorhiza splendidiAlso an endangered plant, this is called the “Blue pride-of-Niewoudtville. They grow 10 – 20 cm in height. An early flowering species with intensely blue flowers. As for radians, they will require deep drenching throughout the growing and flowering period. I have four of these.[/one_half_last]

Gladiolus alatus
Gladiolus alatusThe flower spikes hold large orange and green coloured flowers. Very similar to Gladiolus equitans but more slender foliage. The flowers are fragrant. Grows in sandy soil so best grown in a pot with some extra sand added to the soil. Should be allowed to go dry in summer during dormant period. I have three bulbs.[/one_half]

Ixia viridiflora
Ixia viridifloraIsn’t this one exquisite? Known as Green ixia or groenkalossie (in Afrikaans), it is an exquisite species with many-flowered spikes of sea-green blooms with black centres. According to the book it will do well in deep terracotta pots but will be short lived in a plastic pot! I have four of these bulbs.[/one_half_last]

Moraea villosa
Moraea villosaThis plant is classified as vulnerable. Its a large flowered species that is apparently easily cultivated in deep pots or raised beds and rock gardens. These plants also require regular deep drenching throughout the growing period. I have six of these.[/one_half]

Oxalis purpurea
Oxalis purpureaFlowering time is April to October so I better plant these right now! Apparently it is an large-flowered species that is “an ideal subject for naturalising in lawns as it can withstand summer irrigation” (according to the book). I have four of them.[/one_half_last]

Sparaxis elegans
Sparaxis elegansSparaxis elegans is classified as vulnerable. Its a very pretty salmon-pink flowered species that is ideal for growing in pots. The corms are highly sensitive to summer moisture so not for planting in amongst my plants. I only have two of these.[/one_half]

Watsonia hysterantha
Watsonia hysteranthaThese I recognise – I think they are not that unusual, I see them growing on the Cape West Coast. Flowering is from April to July so I better plant them pronto. The corms multiply quickly and need to be lifted and divided to encourage flowering. I have four of them.[/one_half_last]

Narcissus Cantabricus

My last purchase was Narcissus cantabricus. The Narcissus is not an indigenous plant, but very beautiful in my opinion. It appears to do well in semi-shade to full sun so this one will be easier for me to grow. As I only have four bulbs I’ll still keep them in pots. Its deciduous, low maintenance and perennial so might be best planted along with my other standard bulbs.

Note: “Narcissus is a genus in the Amaryllidaceae family native to Europe, North Africa and Asia. As a popular garden plant it has been hybridized heavily, and there are new ones being introduced every year“.

Narcissus cantabricus
Narcissus cantabricus[/one_half]

Narcissus cantabricus
Narcissus cantabricus[/one_half_last]

My Questions / concerns

What I don’t really understand or get is whether I should put each of the indigenous bulbs in an individual pot or whether planting all of them in one large container will work. Visually I would imagine one (or two) containers filled with different blooms may look better but I don’t know what is best for the plants. Does anyone have any opinions or suggestions?