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Autumn offers a bunch of blooms

This article was first published on 28 Mar 2012.

Gentiana sino-ornata

Gentiana sino-ornata

Not only colourful leaves announce winter’s imminent arrival. Bright blooms punctuate our gardens, as certain plants flower once summer drought has passed.

Strange modification

The following three bulbs are hysteranthous - the flower is produced before the leaves, using last year’s food reserves. Once rainfall begins, the leaves grow, producing food for next year’s flowers.

  • Amaryllis belladonna, a native southern African, has earned the common name ‘naked lady’ as the bare stem holds the large scented flowers high above the ground. Ornamental strap-like leaves last throughout winter. See it at Dunedin Botanic Garden’s rock garden, near the top path.
  • Another southern African, Haemanthus coccineus produces a single startlingly red flower on top of a beautifully marked stem. Two leaves then emerge, spreading wide and long like enormous floppy green ears. They can be seen in all their splendour in the alpine house.
  • From the Mediterranean and producing delicate pale lavender flowers is Crocus pulchellus. It multiplies freely on the rock garden, scattered amongst other plants.
Another stunner flowering at the rock garden is Gentiana sino-ornata, pictured. It looks as good in bud as when unfurled. Flowering from late summer, it too makes the most of the agreeable autumnal weather, before resting over winter.

Autumn is not necessarily all doom and gloom. The Mediterranean autumn is often termed ‘little spring’, as once summer drought has passed and the rains start, a flourish of growth and flowering occurs. A much more pleasant approach to the onslaught of winter!

Robyn Abernethy is the Rock, Water & Alpine Collection Curator at Dunedin Botanic Garden