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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 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.

Now that bedding impatiens (I. walleriana) are not recommended because of impatiens downy mildew, what are three good annuals for shade?

I am going to be planting five dwarf fruit trees; two ‘Bartlett’ pears, one ‘Cresthaven’ peach, and two ‘Honeycrisp’ apples. Could you give me some feedback on them?

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