Laima Beck (right), a Master Gardener from Ontario County in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, is fascinated by Galtonia, a summer-blooming bulb that grows in her garden. While it is originally from South Africa and should only be hardy as far north as Zone 6, Laima has grown it for 8 years in her Zone 5 garden.
Laima's heritage is Latvian. On a 1995 trip to Latvia, which is near Poland in Europe, Laima got some bulbs of Galtonia candicans (Summer Hyacinth) from an agronomist friend. She brought it back to her garden and it has been thriving there ever since.
Galtonia can grow as tall as 5 feet some years. That giant size is what attracted her to it in the first place. It blooms from July to September. The flower is a cluster of fragrant white, bell-like florets (right), sometimes as many as 20 bells per flower. The overall appearance is a tall flower spike.
Plants grow best in full sun, but will take some shade as long as the growing space is somewhat warm. Last summer, her plants only grew to about 2 to 3 feet.
"Deer don't seem to bother it, nor have other small animals," says Laima. As with most bulbs, they grow best in well-drained loose soil. Bulbs can be planted about 6 inches deep in spring. It is usually recommended to mulch Galtonia overwinter in areas colder than Zone 6, but she doesn't and it seems to do well anyway. In Laima's garden, there are mature trees, pockets of protected areas, and a minimum of wind.
See additional information about Galtonia candicans
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