Exotic looking with its red petals tinged with dark maroon and edged with green and cream, the parrot flower comes from the hot and humid savannas of Brazil.
Last Saturday, I went to a garden walk through two private gardens in North Seattle. Barely warmed by the thinning rays of sun, we wandered through the winding pathways of the two gardens that had been cultivated and loved for years. They were accordingly full of rarities and mature specimens of many interesting plants, which kept the participants - a group of landscape designers from the Seattle area - busy discussing their respective merits and qualities (of the plants, not the designers...) and possible uses in gardens.
The parrot flower blooms from July to October. The original species can become invasive, but there is a refined Japanese selection with cream-edged leaves that is much easier keep in bay.
One of them caught my eye, even if I really can't explain why. It was the parrot flower, Ahlstroemeria psittacina, a wild species from the Cerrado ecoregion of Brazil. Just looking at the words "Cerrado ecoregion of Brazil" makes me want to embark for a long botanical expedition to those hot and humid plains, said to be the richest savanna in the world. Think about all those flowers under the bright Brazilian sun, weaving through the abundant grasses and gently swaying in the wind.... What a bliss.
Even the seedpods of the parrot flower look interesting, bursting out amongst the surrounding groundcovers.
Now, I have to confess that red has never really been my color in a garden; I don't think I've ever planted anything pure red in the three gardens I've had so far. But even if these parrot flowers really are a bit too christmassy (in New Zealand, where they are commonly grown in gardens, they are called New Zealand Christmas bells), they looked quite elegant in the garden, picking up colors of the surrounding plants and adding a hint of warmth to the composition. The original species has sometimes a tendency to become invasive, but there is a Japanese selection with refined, white-edged leaves that it much easier to control. An additional bonus is that hummingbirds feed easily from their narrow, tubular flowers, which always is a great feature in a plant. So even if mine might only be a case of projected wanderlust, I am considering planting some parrot flowers somewhere in my current garden...