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Tulbaghia for the win

Out watering this morning, because the promised overnight storm didn’t even bring enough raindrops to register in the rain gauge, a lavender purple in the undergrowth caught my eye.

The Tulbaghia are blooming.

Last winter, my horticultural advisor suggested I might want to try Tulbaghia as a low maintenance, waterwise addition to my garden project. I duly searched and found an Etsy seller offering 6 rooted plants. Since these were sold under the name ‘pink agapanthus’ and came from California, not South Africa, I’m not certain of the exact variety, though possibly Tulbaghia violacea.


The mail order plantlets were nurtured over winter in pots before being planted out in small rockery pockets, in early spring when I kinda forgot about them. Besides a bit of water when the rest of the area was getting it and some random weeding of my garden nemesis, the ever invasive grass, they received little attention.

While Tulbaghia is commonly known as pink agapanthus, society garlic or wild garlic in the USA, it is a South African native in the amaryllis family. I’m really pleased to see it showing signs of thriving. So many of the decorative alliums which I introduced at the beginning of this year, (Allium siculum/Nectaroscordum siculum aka Bulgarian garlic I’m looking at you especially) did not survive the punishing, hot, dry Chihuahuan desert spring.


Bonus: Tulbaghia flowers are edible. Flowers and leaves add a mild garlic flavour to dishes or herbal vinegars. Leaves can be used in stir fries or wherever one would put spinach or young amaranth leaves in a vegetable dish, with the caveat that they bring that mild garlic flavour (but no garlic smelly breath). The plant is also used in traditional herbal medicines in its native country.


This year I’m just going to enjoy looking at this little patch of old country magnificence blooming in the high summer of a faraway desert.


I am also grateful for enlightened input from my horticultural advisor. Look what you did in this desert garden!

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