By Alastair Culham

This year I planned to upcycle existing blogs in the spirit of making the best from what you have during the COVID-19 pandemic but I just couldn’t resist mentioning a plant that has flooded the supermarkets this year as a new Christmas flower.  That new plant is Guzmania Hope (=’Durahop’), a hybrid cultivar that was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 2015 for its ‘long-lasting inflorescence with good colour’.  As is so often the case, tracking the origin of this plant down was not simple.  For a start the plant is sold as Guzmania Hope but it was registered for Plant Breeder’s Rights under the name ‘Durahop’ in 2011. Why is a tropical bromeliad suitable as a Christmas houseplant?  One glance at the white tipped bracts on the holly-berry red flower stalk and you can see.

Chester Skotak

Looking further in to the orogin of this wonderful bromeliad I discovered it’s breeder was Chester Skotak Jr. who turns out to be a major player in this field.  He is based in Costa Rica and has introduced many beautiful bromeliad cultivars into the horticultural trade.  There are a few videos of him talking about his plants – this one I particularly enjoyed watching.


Warm in winter

Those of you in USDA zone 12 and higher should find this plant winter hardy.  In northern Europe this is very much a houseplant and needs a minmum of 15°C according to the RHS.  If you are growing this plant in Australia then Cassowaries are something to worry about, at least according to June Bennett.  I once met a Cassowary in Queensland and had no idea how dangerous they can be – perhaps i shouldn’t have followed it through the jungle to get a photo (which I didn’t manage – that was in the days of film when rain & low light made photography quite difficult in rainforests).

That links me through to the Bromeliad Society International, which seems hugley active in promoting the cultivation and study of these incredible plants.  I can see that i’ll need to look further into the world of Bromeliads.  Chester Skotak has an active Facebook page and and nursery called Dura Flor. He’s also written a book ‘Searching for Miss Fortuna: The Hunt for a Bromeliad’, published in 2007, which I’ve yet to read – and current Amazon price of US$109.99 means I’m not likely to be reading it in the near future!

Here’s to hope for the New Year!

For the full #AdventBotany 2020 story see the index.

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