The lead writer on today’s entry is Eric La Fountaine, who also shared the photograph (and grows the plant). Tamara Bonnemaison made a few edits and adds a paragraph at the end. Eric, who is the collections technician here at UBC Botanical Garden, writes:
This delightful little plant has been producing this dramatic colour show for me each spring for four years now. I grew it from seed received as Zaluzianskya ovata. I was expecting the typical white-flowered form that I had grown previously–a form that had never survived the winter for me. I was thrilled with the bright orange-eyed flowers when they appeared. I did not expect the plants to thrive, but they have done well. In addition to their striking colouration, the flowers emit a wonderful perfume after sundown (a common name for the genus is night phlox), and bloom for several weeks in spring.
Zaluzianskya is endemic to southern Africa, with most species confined to South Africa. Although the African Plants Database lists ~93 taxa in the genus (Mabberley suggests 57 species in the genus), only a few are found in cultivation. Even those few are not well known. This taxon is offered for sale at various nurseries, either as Zaluzianskya ovata ‘Orange Eye’ or as the cultivar with no specific epithet. I am having difficulty tracking down definitive information on this taxon. Elsa Pooley describes Zaluzianskya ovata as “sometimes with a brilliant round orange ‘eye'”, in Mountain Flowers – A Field Guide to the Flora of the Drakensberg and Lesotho. My observation is that the plants I am growing are very similar to the typical Zaluzianskya ovata, but have a somewhat looser, trailing growth. More often, I’ve seen tight-mounded forms. Note that this seems to be the opposite of reports I have read online from other gardeners.
Tamara Bonnemaison’s note: While editing this entry, I stumbled across an article (PDF) about Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden in South Africa. Written for Gardens Illustrated, the article features the stunning photographs of Claire Takacs. Seeing Claire’s photos of Zaluzianskya ovata and some of the other species at Kirstenbosch brings visiting this garden to the top of my bucket list. I would love to stroll through the garden in the evening, as the Zaluzianskya ovata begins to unfurl its flowers and emit its strong, spicy scent. For more photos of South African plants taken by the talented Claire Takacs, visit the Kirstenbosch gallery on her web site: Claire Takacs.