Wherever different Aloe species flower together in the wild one is likely to find natural hybrids. Hybridisation happens when a bird or an insect accidentally deposits pollen from one species on the flower(s) of another. The seeds that form as a result of this so-called cross-pollination hold the genetic key to plants that are different from both the parent plants. The resulting seedling(s) grow up to be hybrids showing a combination of characteristics of the parent plants. Normally the pollen ‘donor’ is called the father, and the seed bearing parent the mother plant.
In theory any 2 aloes can be “crossed” to create a new hybrid. Some do not make good parents – their offspring can be very disappointing. Still others may be incompatible, and it takes many years to discover the best and most viable combinations. Consequently the pedigree of most of Sunbird cultivars is a closely guarded secret.
It can take many years to create an exceptional plant, as one may want to combine the characteristics of a number of species. An aloe hybrid can only have 2 parents, although one of or both the parents can be hybrids themselves. This means that, should you wish to combine the plant shape of “aloe A” with the flower production of “aloe B” and the flower colour of “aloe C”, you will have to start with a simple hybrid, say “A x B”. Only when this hybrid flowers (after a few years) will you be able to add “C” by pollinating the flowers of “A x B” with pollen from “C”. The sad reality, however, is that nature always has the last say, and what you wanted from the hybrid may not materialise. You may have to find an “aloe D” to use in the hybrid combination instead of “C” if your first effort does not produce the right flower colour . Even then you may have to grow many plants of the same hybrid combination to flowering size in order to find the superior quality required of a good cultivar.
At Sunbird Aloes they pride ourselves in the fact that they do not market inferior quality plants, and they do not bestow a cultivar name on an aloe hybrid unless it adds a new dimension to what nature herself has to offer.
The breakthrough at Sunbird Aloes came more than 30 years ago when the realisation struck that they can improve on nature by selecting their parent plants for their flowering colour and performance. The simple premise is that the offspring of an aloe with 50 racemes on its inflorescence will produce better flowers than those from a plant with 10 racemes. The results are evident in their range of super-floriferous (this means they flower like crazy!) aloe cultivars.
The current range of selected aloe hybrid cultivars will be built out to become the most comprehensive collection anywhere in the world. Already the plants on offer provide a wide range of flower colours and plant sizes to choose from. Every now and again new cultivars will be added to the list – there are many waiting in the wings.
- TheRooiklip Nursery in Swellendam (Jaap Viljoen : +27 82 900 5455) is open to the public from Monday to Friday from 8 until 5 and Saturdays from 8 till 1.The display garden is now 95% established. More than 40 of the most popular Sunbird aloes are available in this nursery. The Rooiklip aloe barn is the largest water wise and succulent display facility after Kirstenbosch in the Western Cape.
- People in Cape Town can now find their Sunbird Aloes at the newly established Rooiklip Cape Town. Kate Steyn. who runs Rooiklip Cape Town, can be contacted on +27 84 573 0723.
On the garden route, our aloes are available at
- Pot and Plant Nurseryin Riversdale;
- The Aloe Ferox Nurseryin Albertina.
In George aloes are now available at
- The Bargain Nursery close to the Airport.
In Knysna aloes are now availbale at
1. Lagoonview Nursery, White Bridge