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Gardening with Gael - Spectacular flowers make clivia a favourite


clivia and croquet lawn 001(copy)One of the most exciting things about plants is the endless diversity.

I love the sight, at this time of year, of flowering clivias beneath native trees and shrubs. Named for Lady Charlotte Florentina Clive there has always been great discussion as to the correct pronounciation. Just like lives/lives, as in ‘she lives’ or ‘their lives’, clivias can be pronounced with a short or long ‘i’. Given that they are named for Lady Clive, I prefer the long.

Most clivias originated in South Africa but there are now hybrids from Japan, China, Belgium and throughout the world. Last weekend at the market on Saturday, clivia enthusiast Diana Holt was there with the clivias she has hybridised. Spectacular blooms in orange-red and shades of yellow held high above thick glossy, luxuriant strap-like leaves, these clivias attracted a great deal of interest and a few found their way into the green car.

Diana was the secretary of the New Zealand Clivia Club for seven years and also belongs to the South African and North American Clivia Societies. She has been hybridising clivias since 2003. At the moment she is trying to grow more compact plants for the smaller garden. The plants looking so beautiful at the market were 5–6 years old. She also had little seedlings but they can take from 4–7 years to flower. Diana says clivias love dry shade and thrive on neglect. Throw them some food once a year – blood and bone, sheep pellets, compost – clivias enjoy them all.

Two years ago I started collecting seeds from the best clivias at the block. I have clumps of yellow and orange-red in close proximity to one another and I am hoping that some of them cross pollinated and maybe I have some new shades. Quite random I agree. I’d like a peachy coloured one. I peeled back the outer skin and then planted the seeds that were inside. Some took several months to germinate and I was pleased with the percentage that grew. I do realise now I have at least two more years, probably more, before I see what I have grown. In the meantime, I repot them as the roots thrust their way out of their bags. I am very hesitant to plant them out yet. They are very small and although the ducks at the Block are doing a fine job with the snails, a feral one could chomp through one of my carefully grown seedlings overnight.

Googling the clivia club elicits some glorious colours. Cream with pink tips and some lovely soft shades. There are some different shaped blooms as well, one that looks like a giant lachenalia. I have some at the Block and the cottages and they tend to flower at a different time to the more common variety.

Clivias are adaptable to most soils except very heavy soils that are likely to get waterlogged. Once well established they perform beautifully. Direct sun can damage their leaves and leave them looking ‘sunburnt’. I have had some for 20 years along the perimeter of the bush under natives and pungas. Planted en masse they are a wonderful spring ‘show’. Older plants can be readily divided and flower again within two years.



EYE CATCHING: Diana Holt at the Mangawhai Market with her hybridised clivia.

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