At the UK flower shows, you might find me hovering, hypnotised, iPhone in hand, before an offering of cape primroses. Dibleys Nurseries (awarded Master Grower status by the RHS at this year’s Cardiff Flower Show) can be relied upon to showcase a wonderful collection in tip top condition, as 150 coveted RHS gold medals can testify.
After many decades of breeding, a fashion parade would seem the perfect collective noun for them. If you want your flowers to have fancy netting, streaks, veins, lines or edging, different coloured lobes or throats, or frilly petals, these are the ones to audition. Let’s face it, just one cultivar can pretty much do it all.
Today’s floriferous, showy plants may not be entirely natural-looking, but do have an exotic appeal. Not for nothing is Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Blue’ RHS Chelsea’s reigning Plant of the Decade. Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Lace’, shown above, is a stablemate. The breeder claims it can flower for ten months of the year.
Something in the posture of these flowers suggests they would be highly vocal if only a genetic engineer was willing to dedicate his life’s work to improving the plant’s experience, rather than our own. In that case, the passer-by might hear a clamour of little voices demanding ’Feed me!… Water me!’, asking ‘Am I prettiest of all?’ or singing a lugubrious song.
With so many options available, these are some of the most archetypal collectors’ plants. It’s no surprise that highly structured societies with elected officials, publications, meet ups and exhibitions have grown up around them and their gesneriad cousins.
A quick internet search will turn up a plethora of detailed cultivation advice, some of it geared around perfecting plants for the show bench. I’m not going to add my two penn’orth here. All I will say is that they are reputed to be easy plants to grow and, I think, peculiarly photogenic at their prime. If you have any success growing houseplants in general and African violets in particular, you’ve got an excellent chance with these.
Links for More information
Check out the British Streptocarpus Society here (there are links to other national societies too).
Find out more about the RHS Master Grower Award here.
Learn how to propagate plants from leaf cuttings here.
The cultivar names, from top to bottom are: Streptocarpus ‘Polka Dot Purple’, Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Lace’, Streptocarpus ‘Denim’, Streptocarpus ‘Nadine’.