As a kid, I used to call them crocuses. After all they look like crocuses and I liked the idea of being able to grow the spring-like blooms in my garden. But of course they are not.
And so I learnt to give them their true names – such a mouthful for the unassuming plants.
Both the habranthus and zephyranthes are easy to grow. I planted mine from seed, some from bulbs and divided clumps. Give them a sunny position and well drained soil and watch them do their magic. I like to grow them close together since sparsely grown ones seem to lie flat ‘like some cat slept on them’, as mum would say.
Much of the time, the chive-like leaves remain a patch of nondescript grass. Sometimes I wish I could comb the leaves to get them into some semblance of order. Then, just as I despair of their untidiness, the delightful blooms emerge – as buds one day and as gorgeous blooms the next.
I love the bright yellow zephyranthes citrina as well as the pale yellow ones. Then there is the more common pink zephyranthes rosea and its grander cousin, the zephyranthes grandiflora. My favourite though has to be the more flamboyant habranthes – seeds sent to me by my dear friend, Al, from Australia.
Sometime ago, dad had this idea that he should plant a few zephyranthes bulbs on the slope in front of the house. So he painstakingly plugged them into the slope by the drain, one bulb at a time. Every now and then, a couple would bloom.
The other day, my little niece saw a pink one by the drain and asked for the bloom. As I gave her the humble zephyranthes rosea, I saw the glow of delight on her face.
Just last week I heard some excitement across the road as I watered the plants. They were my neighbour’s young children. They had asked their maid to help them pick a couple of crocuses …oops, I mean zephyranthes, off the slope – and were hugging the precious flowers to their chests. Then they saw me and tried to hide their treasures – while I tried to hide the grin from my face.