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Harmattan beauties

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Jacaranda (J. mimosifolia ) “DREAM Tree’, ‘lilac Tree” covered in lavender blooms in botanical garden, Calabar<br />

January is the month that heralds “The New Year’ which comes at the height of the Harmattan season.

The rains have long seized to fall, giving way to the Harmattan’s dry winds which blankets the landscape with its grey dust.

Most plants manage to stay alive; the deciduous shedding their leaves, while those that keep their foliage, rest their blossoms.

However, the amazing thing, if you are observant, it is in this dryness that some plants species burst into colorful conspicuous floriflorous blossoms that outlast that blazing burning sunshine and drought of the Harmattan Season.

Have you noticed also that most are full of fragrance with heady scents that are borne by the prevalent winds, especially at night? The Belladonna lilies (Amaryllis, Amaryllidaceae).

Amaryllis , African Belladonna lilies or ‘Harmattan lilies’ by their popular name are lovely romantic plants with the huge blooms that come in colors of red, white, pink, and peach.

The salmon color is most common in this region. Frangipani (Plumeria rubra) is a most beloved garden plant with gorgeous flowers, which are used to make garlands, wreaths, and other floral arrangements. They can be grown in containers and comes in all colors of the rainbow.

Frangipani suits any style of gardening and floral designs. They are easy plants to grow and thrive with little maintenance. They are perfect for decorations.

For gardeners restricted to containers on terraces, rooftops, balconies and patios, low-care frangipanis are the perfect choice. They grow well in pots. The fragrances are exotic and easy to discern.

Bougainvillea are known for their brilliant floral displays and ground covering power.

Members of four-o-clock (Nyctaginaceae) family, unsupported, these plants will remain compact or behave as ground cover, while if given support they will climb vigorously, using their sharp thorns as a means of attachment.

While the thin-textured, downy, tapering leaves and the small tubular, ivory to yellow flowers play a role in the overall attractive appearance, it is the brilliantly colored petal-like bracts (modified leaves) that create its dramatic impact. Discovered in Brazil in the 18th century.

While in the 19th century, bougainvilleas were introduced to Europe.

African Amaryllis (A. belladonna ) “Harmattan lilies”, the true Amaryllis with salmon pink blooms


From the early introductions — Bougainvillea spectabilis,; Bougainvillea peruviana; and Bougainvillea glabra — there are now more than 300 varieties of bougainvillea around the world, including double flowered and variegated cultivars in reds, whites, pinks, oranges, purples and burgundies. Deep pink or purple still remain the most popular.

Bougainvilleas are evergreen vigorous vines that grow well in the ground, in pots, in hanging baskets and as formal standards. They thrive and flower best in full sun.

In shade, although they produce nice vegetative growth, they offer little or no bloom.

For the most vibrant and abundant flower, keep them in the sun, slightly on the dry side and allow them to become root bound.

It can be used as a hedge or a floriferous bush. It can climb a trellis, spread along a wall or adorn a trellis. It can be grown in a pot, it can cascade from a hanging baskets or it can be used as an accent tree.

It is sought after for topiaries and bonsai specimens. Today, the bougainvillea lends an abundance of color to gardens and parks.

Bougainvilleas are showy, thorny, woody, clambering vines.

Virtually pest-free and disease resistant, these hardy, drought-tolerant plants are easy to grow. They should be planted in well-drained soil, without high peat levels that retains water, and they prefer afternoon sun.

Monthly fertilization with a generalized balanced (20-20-20 or 12-12-12) fertilizer is suggested for these heavy feeders during blooming season. Re-potting may be necessary every 2-3years.

The hazy purple blue flower-laden branches of Jacarandas are so much a part of the Harmattan season. Jacarandas ( Jacaranda, mimosifolia ) are natives to parts of Central and South America including Brazil and the Caribbean islands where they are grown as street trees, in parks and as spreading shade tree in large gardens.

Jacarandas were originally known as ‘dream trees’, a name which captures the out-of-this world effect of a Jacaranda in full bloom.

Have you had picnic under Jacaranda trees on leopard hill near Government house Calabar or the Botanical gardens, or walked along street-lined with Jacaranda trees in Calabar on a warm Harmattan day? Idyllic! They must have been introduced from seeds brought into the country by the British Colonialists.

Jacaranda puts on a show of color like no other in lilac blue that soothes the senses.

The large silky, flower make grand entrance, hanging in heavy bunches. The color that emerges from the clusters of blossom is so visually breath-taking, it’s unlike any other tree in the landscape.

Like a sea of lavender, the incomparable blooms flood the tree prior to any leaves making their striking appearance that much more magnificent.

When the trumpet-shaped blooms finally fall, they form a lilac carpet beneath an awe-inspiring specimen that passersby will surely admire.

The incredible dome-shaped canopy makes walking along a street lined with Jacarandas an experience you’ll want to enjoy season after season.

January is certainly a month that showcases unique drought tolerant plant with tons of incredible, long lasting brilliant colorful blooms and exotic scents that come wafting through the breezy cool evenings.

In the Western World there exists the tradition of birthstones for each month of the year.

Not everyone can afford to give expensive jewelry with precious stones, so as alternative there are floral symbols which are given as gifts. For instance carnations are for the birth month of January.

Here, we are spoilt with multiple choice of plants, to make lovely New Year presents in bouquets, or as live specimens to be planted in gardens that will be enjoyed all year.


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