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Cape Cowslip (Lachenalia)

Cape Cowslip (Lachenalia)

Cape cowslip, a bulbous plant with spotted leaves and tubular flowers, was a member of the hyacinth and scillia section of the order of Liliaceae (lilies).

The cape cowslips were introduced from the Cape of Good Hope about 1774 the first was the Lachenalia tricolor. They were strictly greenhouse plants, and grown in five or seven-inch pots with a neat upside-down oyster shell on the bottom (for drainage) and filled with sandy-loam and leaf mould. Bulbs were placed close together in the pot – perhaps 5 or 6 per pot.

Being potted in the summer or autumn, they were then be kept in a frame with little water until the leaves had grown to two inches in length. At that point the pots needed to be moved to the greenhouse and stood in pans of inch-deep water where the plants could attain their full splendour.

Information and image taken from F. Edward Hulme and Shirley Hibberd, Familiar Garden Flowers (Cassell, Peter, Galpin and Co.: London: c. 1890), 5 vols

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