18 October, 2013

My arum, your calla

by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity
in Cape Town, South Africa

Today when I want a fresh picture, the flowers have slipped away. But I caught one ten days ago. It’s a plant I cannot imagine my garden without.

Arum lily flower in my October garden

As my Dozen rounds out I need some large leaves for drama. The arum has heraldic arrow head leaves, stately green banners, with furled edges and a delicate spire to echo the flower. Once the flower is history there is a knobbly tight package of green berries.

Arum leaves

Arum lily berries

In spring as we travel across country, along the streams, in every dip and hollow, there are swathes of proud white flowers. Now they are sold as cut flowers, then they were pig food. Partnered by Melianthus which likes its roots along the stream.

Wild arum lilies on a farm outside Porterville in September 2009

Wild arum lilies with Melianthus on a farm outside Porterville in September 2009

The plant once harvested by my father beyond Camps Bay, was planted again in Apple Creek. Now fighting a bitter battle against wild grasses and dwarf papyrus with a swarm of tree seedlings. Added to my to do list.

Arum lily in Apple Creek August 2009

Arum lily in Apple Creek today

I’ve learnt that just because it looks like an arum, they are not all created equal. The spotted leaf disappeared without a trace, followed by the Green Goddess. While the bog-standard white one is suited to our mediterranean climate, revelling in winter rain, and hunkering down in summer – the fancy varieties and unusual species are from the summer rainfall side of the country, retreating in horror from our soggy winters. Gone, without a trace.

Green Goddess arum in September 2008

The leaves of Z. aethiopica are cooked as a pot herb by the African and Indian communities in South Africa. They boil the leaves before braising them in oil with onions and chillies. The cooked herb is eaten with maize meal porridge. The herb adds flavour. Both boiling and tamarind seem to effectively break down raphides of calcium oxalate in the leaves. If not properly cooked, the herb causes a burning sensation in the mouth and throat. The presence of raphides may be of relevance to anti-herbivory (Do NOT eat me) - from  PlantZAfrica

Zantedeschia has 8 species, 7 are ours, and the eighth reaches Tanzania. My October choice is Zantedeschia aethiopica. In the Araceae family with true arums, Anthurium, Caladium and Philodendron. Zantedeschi was an Italian botanist, aethiopica = south of the known world (Egypt). In 1664 there were South African arum lilies growing in the Royal Garden in Paris. The white which we see is trapped air bubbles. Supporting beetles and bees, a tiny frog (IN the flower), and birds will eat the seeds.

I am choosing a plant each month. Third round is plants from our Porterville garden which will one day be happy to flourish in False Bay. The arum is already growing in our new garden. Those white flowers light up shady corners.

Dozen for Diana 2013 leaves
Grewia occidentalis, Plectranthus madagascariensis, Zantedeschia aethiopica. Searsia crenata
Chrysanthemoides monilifera, Tecoma capensis
Salvia africana-lutea , Cotyledon orbiculata, Bulbine frutescens, Agathosma apiculata

What says October in your garden?

Dozen for Diana 2013 flowers
Arum, bietou, strandsalie, pig's ears
Cape honeysuckle, Plectranthus, lavender star, Bulbine
garlic buchu

Donna @ Garden's Eye View in central NY State brings us dill. A herb I’ve recently discovered (dry in jars, not a Grow our Own) which I sprinkle lavishly on potato salad or scrambled eggs.
Beth @ PlantPostings in Wisconsin has Bacon and Eggs, Lantana in an exuberant range of colours.

Pictures by Diana and Jurg
text by Diana Studer (on Google Plus)
AKA Diana of Elephant's Eye (on False Bay)
- wildlife gardening in Porterville,
near Cape Town in South Africa

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  1. October in my garden says: lots of leaves, many mushrooms and complete chaos. No time for pretty photos.

    1. but, mushrooms have their own charm.

  2. How wonderful to have Calla (Arum) growing wild in your area! It is truly one of my favorites, and a fantastic cut flower! My plant of the month will be up tomorrow or Sunday.

  3. A lovely post on one of South Africa's most beautiful flowers. I particularly enjoyed your various shots of them growing wild. I have, growing wild, both the stock-standard white and the yellow with spotted leaves. Once many years ago I found a soft pink growing wild in the garden but managed to kill it instead of rescuing it. And a neighbour lost much money trying to grow the assorted gloriously coloured and highly temperamental cultivars as cut flowers - even though we seem to live in arum heaven. (That is except for the porcupines who respond with bacchanalian frenzy to more than three arums together - but they were not his chief problem. Fungal infections were.) By the way, your first pic is a stunner!

  4. A favorite of mine as well. Oh, to have them growing wild like that would be heaven. Here, they respond to lots of watering and pampering.

  5. My love affair with Lillies is a complicated one. Orientals & Asiatics - no thanks but Calla & Arum... swoon. I recently purchased yellow ones that brightened my entrance and had everyone commenting on them. I have always thought them to be the most graceful of all blooms. ♥♥♥
    from http://angybraine.blogspot.com/

  6. Hi,thanks for commenting.I think I have now managed to Follow you. Melianthus pictures are great.Sue.
    from http://sueturner31.wordpress.com/

  7. Oh no! Don't you just hate it when you discover that something that sounds delightful and exotic turns out to be something by another name (in this case, home-grown and indigenous?)

    Dhania is simply coriander, aubergine mos maar brinjal, courgettes just baby marrows ...

    Sigh - Kathryn Kure

    1. I'm learning to blog in trans-Atlantic, and Northern as well.

  8. I'm really struggling with lilies at my place. They just don't seem to do that well and usually disappear after having a flower, if I'm lucky to get a flower.

  9. Your collage portends a beautiful garden! I love calla lilies. They do well in my woodland garden. I planted about a dozen Arum italicum earlier this year. They went dormant for the summer (Or did they die?!), and now I am waiting anxiously for new leaves to appear.
    from http://debsgarden.squarespace.com/

    I'm sure your Italian arums are quietly waiting for 'winter rain' and will sprout soon.

  10. I read that snails have been seen to pollinate arums. It's great to see them growing in the wild.

  11. Your arum lily is a beauty... surely must have been a royal feast for the pigs. This morning my Autumn was glorious and golden. I simply love this time of year.

  12. Now I really see why my calla lilies struggle -- they really need to grow along the edge of a stream.

  13. I am trying to come back to some of the blogs I have so enjoyed in the past, but not had time to visit for some time, so many blogs to see! Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos about the arum/canna lilies, I love all kinds of lilies and have many types in my London garden but none of these yet. We can grow both, but cannas have to be lifted in the winter. Zantedeschia aethiopica and Z. pentlandii are fully hardy here though, and are already on my wish list for an all white flower bed I am creating.
    October in my garden is fuchsias time, although some of them have been flowering since July, this is when they really come into their best. They will go on flowering for the next 3-4 months or until we get frost, if we get any.

  14. You live in a beautiful country...where stunning flowers seemingly spring from the ground.


  15. Beautiful scenery. I really interested. I'm your new follower. I invite you to visit my blog. Thank you for sharing.

  16. What do you mean by a Dozen for Diana?
    asked http://ofgardens.com/

    click the Dozen for Diana tab for more info

  17. how I love to see what is local to you as it is always exotic to me! amazing to see these plants blooming en masse in the wild. Rudbeckias take center stage at this time of year in our cold climate. Their bright yellows are cheery as the sun disappears more and more quickly each day.

  18. Diana I love your choice of the arum lily and lovely it looks in the fields.

  19. It's always such a treat to see such beautiful flowers growing in the wild. It makes sense that the regular kind is more hardy. Too bad your other cultivars didn't come back! The flower is gorgeous, and I think that the berries look really interesting too.

  20. I can't imagine my garden with arum lilies, but I'd love to able to! They think they're in the wild, and make themselves at home, and absolutely refuse to be eradicated. Your wild ones, on the other hand, are lovely, they look like they really do belong. I love your landscape, I'd love to visit SA one day, but probably won't make it. So I'll just keep visiting your blog instead. It's not the same, but it's the next best thing.

    1. Yes, that top arum was a spontaneous gift with the Strelitzia. I dug up bits and moved them. I still have a Strelitzia/arum.

  21. I adore calla lilies, too, but they don't over-winter here. I have to dig up the corms and store them in the basement until spring ... often I don't and just buy new. They are worth the effort, though. Would love to see them growing wild. P. x

  22. Wonderfull arum, love much calla, remmenber i have this plant and flowers in my childhood garden in katanga, now have one but here in Belgium grow no much, and i enter house for winter.
    Have a nice day.