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A Bulb Like No Other


A few days ago it was cool enough to go outside and see the red needles calling me. It was my fully open haemanthus, a rarely grown South African bulb whose salmon red stamens form a round ball up to 10 inches across.

From my earliest greenhouse experiments, I never could get it right. First of all, it was called Haemanthus ‘Katherinae’. (I don’t know who she is.) By the time I researched that elusive woman, her name had been changed to Scadoxus multiflorus subsp. katherinae. I hope she likes her new inlaws. She rotted on me. Some thanks I got for slavishly taking care of her.

I eventually bought a new bulb, small and inexpensive, probably an offset. This Katherinae is like Paris Hilton, expensive and showy, but is the depth there? She went into a 6-inch pot with container potting soil, and out came a small flower that spent the summer on the wall around my patio. That winter Katherinae stayed in the pot, sheltered in a big box of other bulbs for company. She survived and flowered. Helped by loving care, she put out an offset.

Photos By Nancy Kekst

Now I save the bulb in the same pot and wait for really hot summer days until a shiny, dark bud shows. The round flower zooms out, and lastly the foliage appears.

She is really hot stuff!

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questions

I purchased some pre-chilled hyacinths and tulips for forcing but there were no directions with them. Does this mean I don’t have to chill them in the refrigerator, and will they just bloom in the house any time during the winter? The last batch of bulbs became moldy in the refrigerator.

Must I mulch my garden and, if so, when is the best time to apply it? What are the best materials to use?

I recently moved to Chicago from Houston and I miss fresh picked figs. Is there any way to grow figs in Chicago short of installing a greenhouse? Will sunny windows do? I’m desperate.

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