Clivia might be in­dige­nous but the Chi­nese have turned them into a work of art, writes Alice Spenser-Higgs

Business Day - Home Front - - FRONT PAGE -

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.gar­den­

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.