The Queen’s Flower

That is, Strelitzia reginae, discovered in South Africa in the reign of George III, and named for Charlotte von Mecklenburg-Strelitz, then queen of England. The Real World Consultant grew two or three strelitzias from seed about eight years ago, and very kindly gave me one. It is finally about to flower, and the suspense is killing. In the course of eight years, what has developed is two upright fans of leaves, one beside the other. The leaves resemble those of a banana, to which the plant is related, with long, stiff stems and paddle-like ends, and standing about four feet tall. Quite handsome in their way, and with at least the merit of looking thoroughly exotic in darkest Aberdeenshire, but unexciting. However, in the course of April, the plant slowly put out another leaf which, as it developed, began to look less and less leaflike. For the six weeks, the end of this has been gradually declaring itself to be a future flower, acquiring the shape of a peacockís head, and declining on the stem to an angle which makes it look remarkably like a bird in inquiring mood. Today it is sunny, and the Ďbeakí has begun to open at last. What will happen from now on is the gradual development of a splendid purple head with a an elaborate crest like a bird of paradise in orange and metallic blue. Or at least, thatís what is says in the book. I hope to find out. Iíve seen strelitzia flowers on sale in places like the achingly posh flower shop in Neal Street, where for (I suspect) something like a tenner a stem, you could find out for yourself. But itís the waiting eight years that makes it really special.

2 Responses to “The Queen’s Flower”

  1. Un Vecchio Romano Says:

    The finest deployment of strelizia flowers which I have ever seen was in two great vases before the Madonna del Parto in Rome. There were about forty of them. I concluded that somewhere a Contessa of the aristocrazia nera had been safely delivered of male twins, securing thus a line of Doria Pamphili or della Rovere or Colonna.

  2. Suzanne Sobral Says:

    When I was young and carefree in a Swiss finishing school many years ago (1956), “Madame et Monsiuer” were growing a Strelitzia reginae near their fireplace and were able to bring it to bloom. Quite a feat, given the circumstances! So it should not be all that difficult fifty years later…join in, they are beautiful. Of course, I am being facetious, since I live in Brazil - right sunlight,rainfall and ventilation - and they grow and flower in my garden.

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