Zephyranthes carinata : rosepink zephyr lily, pink rain lily, Indian crocus
The parts of China I’m required to visit on my buying trips are not what I would describe as attractive. However, there has been an appreciable greening in some areas which has begun to mask some of the brutal and unsympathetic architecture so horribly prevalent in urban areas. There are also drastic actions being taken to reduce pollution. These are long overdue and much-needed, but are putting some factories out of business when they cannot comply quickly enough with new regulations. China is waking up to its responsibilities and taking advantage of the USA’s waning influence in the world. As a bystander it’s fascinating to observe China’s carefully calculated repositioning and its growing affluence.
Sadly I have little time to seek out the more appealing aspects of Chinese culture whilst I am here, particularly not traditional gardens, which I’d love to learn more about. I get my plant fix by trying to identify plants as I whizz along the motorways or traipse in and out of factories. There is no lack of diversity, but many of the trees and shrubs used in southern Chinese landscaping are non-native. I’ve been keeping a keen eye out for Eriobotrya deflexa, the coppertone loquat, which is native to Guangdong and produces deeply-toothed, bronzy-red new growth. I purchased a 3ft sapling of this tree in Cornwall last month and look forward to seeing if I can make it grow in Broadstairs.
Moving at speed it’s hard to spot anything below crash barrier height, but as we parked up outside an austere Christmas tree factory I spied a fringe of diminutive pink lilies butted-up, close against the kerb. The wide-open flowers belonged to Zephyranthes carinata, the pink rain lily from Mexico and Guatemala. This gregarious, bulbous plant has stealthily made its way around the world, typically flowering wherever it settles after periods of wet weather. Typhoon Khanun has just cleared the area, leaving in its wake an atypical spell of cool weather. This may be why the large pink blooms have chosen to appear during my visit. I am very happy they did, as they remind me that my nerines will be flowering their socks off at home in Broadstairs and I miss their cheerful blooms.
Zephyranthes carinata is a giant within its genus, boasting flowers up to 10cm in diameter. Each bloom is clear-pink with darker rosy-red flushing, a white and green centre, and saffron-like, golden stamens. The petals are broad and overlapping, giving the flower the appearance of an amaryllis, a flower to which zephyranthes are closely related. The bulbs are not especially easy to find in the UK but Himalayan Gardens are currently offering 50 bulbs for the bargain price of £8. Don’t trample me in the stampede to buy some. TFG.