Hesperantha: Autumn blaze

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Some plants are full of surprises and I can never quite get over how delicate and beautiful the flowers of Hesperantha coccinea seem as they open at a time when the weather is anything but gentle. This is not one of the best known plants and is even less familiar with its new name – it is better known as Schizostylis. Most hesperantha are cormous but this species is rhizomatous – surely a reason to keep it separate, but I am no botanist.

Like so many of our popular garden plants, this one hails from South Africa, at high altitudes in eastern Cape Province and Natal. The high altitude may account for its hardiness bu it still seems odd that such large and beautiful flowers open when the weather is such that surely no seeds could ever be produced. Maybe that is why it is rhizomatous and spreads so well by vegetative means. You may also find small cormlets on the old flower stems that can be removed and grown on.

In the wild it is always found along rivers and in the garden it needs moist soil. If grown in dry soils it gradually fades away. But in moist soil, ideally rich in organic matter, this is an easy plant to grow and will bloom profusely in October and November and maybe a lot earlier and a bit later too. The tricky bit is that, although it needs moist soil, it must have full sun too in order to bloom well.

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The foliage is narrow and like a skinny gladiolus and the flower stems generally reach about 40cm though this can vary according to soil moisture and variety. This is the common, red form but the majority are shades of pink and they vary a lot in size so buy them in bloom – in your garden centre now.

As well as looking good in the garden it makes a useful cut flower too, lasting well in water.

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This plant was growing in a flower bed in a car park in Omeath, Co Louth last weekend.

And this is a pink one in the garden

And this is a pink one in the garden

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Geoff’s rating

8/10

Garden rating

7/10 – needs moist soil

Macro Monday answer

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This hardy annual is Chrysanthemum carinatum, easily grown from seed and a good cut flower in a wonderful range of colours

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4 Comments on “Hesperantha: Autumn blaze”

  1. derrickjknight
    November 3, 2015 at 7:25 am #

    Now, why didn’t I think of that?

  2. Meriel
    November 5, 2015 at 11:56 am #

    Chrysanthemum looks gorgeous. I never saw or heard of it before. I would have thought H. coccinea fairly common in Irish gardens as they pass them around because of their capacity to increase. I had both shown plus a good salmon pink one until this year when last winter the deer dug up most and ate the corms – never having done so previously! I will have to beg a few from others and stick to them in pots – which is a shame. Sorry to whinge about the deer again!

    • thebikinggardener
      November 5, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

      The chrysanth is only the cost of a packet of seeds – but since chrysanthemum greens are a Japanese food I fear they could be deer food as well! Sorry about you deer eating the schizostylis!

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