Clivia might be indigenous but the Chinese have turned them into a work of art, writes Alice Spenser-Higgs
Clivia might be indigenous but the Chinese have turned them into a work of art
APPRECIATING clivia for their leaves and not their flowers may seem like a strange approach but in China that is the direction clivia breeding has taken.
To give some idea of the value attached to prize specimens, last year a Chinese grower advertised his broad leaf plant on eBay for $2,9m. Although Chinese clivia are descendents of Clivia miniata or Clivia miniata x C. nobilis that arrived from Japan in the 1930s, they look nothing like their South African ancestors.
They have broad short leaves, variegated, banded or plain, and the arrangement of leaves has an elegance and symmetry characteristic of the East. They also have descriptive names, such as Light of Buddha, Painted Face, Sparrow, Mandarin Duck and Stardust.
These broad-leaf clivia are starting to catch on in SA and if you visit the Joburg clivia club’s annual show at Garden World on September 11 and 12 there will be a special display of Chinese broadleaf clivia.
The plants are grown in pots and are treated like individual works of art. They are usually miniature in form, with leaves almost as broad as they are long, and with varying textures.
The centre of Chinese clivia propagation is Changchun in the north-east of China. It has a cold and inhospitable climate for six months of the year, and as Pretoria clivia grower James Abel explains, the Chinese feel it is more important to have a graceful plant that can be appreciated all year round.
“For the Chinese, viewing the leaf is better than the flower. When judging clivia 94% of points are awarded for foliage, 3% for the flower and 3% for presentation, which includes the container.”
However, he admits that this might change because influence from other parts of the world is prompting Chinese breeders to incorporate beautiful flowers into their foliage plants.
Thanks to increasing contact with China, many broad-leaf clivia varieties are becoming available in SA. The short, broad leaves of Chinese clivia are the result of the Chinese search for compactness. Examples are the very dwarf Heng Lan and Sparrow. The leaf of a Heng Lan clivia is rounded, about 15cm long and 10cm to 12cm wide. The leaves are often wrinkled. Sparrow has sharp leaf tips that look like the beak of a sparrow. The dark-green glossy leaves are often wrinkled and there are also variegated specimens.
The short leafed Monk (up to 35cm long) has been the basis for many crosses. The leaves are arched and turn up at the tips. The distinctive Chinese round tip has been developed from Monk plants. There is also the Broadleaf that has very wide leaves, some up to 18cm across. They can become very heavy and pendulous.
Leaf texture is another area of emphasis for breeders. The leaves of sought-after specimens have a network of veins that are very prominent, giving the leaf a netted look. An interesting variation in leaf colour occurs when the veins are dark green and the spaces in between are much lighter. An example is Painted Face, which has particularly glossy, waxy leaves.
There are about many different types of variegation, the most common being the Striata, longitudinal stripes of green and white or cream. There is also Mandarin Duck, where the leaves are half white and half green.
Light of Buddha is distinguished by bright green leaves with distinct cream or white horizontal patches. The veins on the leaves are very clear. Stardust is a variation on this, with dark green specks on a pale green leaf. Akebono has white bands across the green leaves.
At Joburg’s annual clivia show visitors can browse among the many differently coloured Clivia miniata and get tips on growing clivia. The exhibitors are experienced clivia growers and are happy to share their knowledge.
The show hours are 8.30 am to 5pm on Saturday and from 8.30am to 4pm on Sunday. Entrance is R10 a person over 12. For further information contact Braam at 011 4752586 or Glynn at 082 650 1463, or visit the Garden World website: www.gardenworld.co.za
Chinese broadleaf, above left. Specimens where the leaf is as short as it is broad command high prices. The unusual Light of Buddha clivia with the bands of lighter green on the leaves, right.
This plant illustrates the symmetrical arrangement of the leaves of the Chinese broadleaf. The variegation makes it even more desirable.