The south African tulbaghias have a lot of features I like in a plant. They are a bit unusual, have fragrant flowers (with the sting in the tail that the leaves are pongy when crushed – of garlic would you believe) and they are generally tender so not too simple to grow. Closely related to alliums (onions) the most obvious difference is that there is a rudimentary ‘trumpet’ in the centre of the flowers as though they are trying to be daffodils. Of course they are not the only ones to do this and the brodiaeas and their ilk from North America do a similar thing. Those I have grown have pungent, fleshy roots and narrow, almost grassy leaves that are slimy when squashed. The flower scapes are usually longer than the leaves and there can be a few or many flowers in an umbel.
By far the most common is T. violacea which is hardy in light soils in the UK and a very pretty plant. I saw it blooming its heart out at Mount Congreve in Waterford and my plants have survived in the greenhouse. About ten years ago I did some pollen daubing with this species, its white form, T. simmleri and T. acutiloba and the seedlings flowered in their second or third year and were all pretty and a couple seemed good enough to think about naming. A few have survived and I will have to look after them to see if they have stood the test of time. One advantage they had was that they did not set loads of seed which may cause the species to be a problem in warm climates. Tulbaghia simmleri is a more delicate creature and very pretty. They all seem easy enough in cold climates if they are kept dry in winter when they will take a little frost. ‘Silver Lace’ is a variegated form of T. violacea and is a very attractive plant for pots.
I was delighted to see that T. acutiloba has also pulled through and although it is not exactly showy with its greenish petals and orange cup, it is interesting and, like most of the others, fragrant.