ONE OF the most wonderful Strelitzia reginae (bird of paradise) plants I have seen was at the sadly-closed Flamingo Park, which was a paradise for birds and my family.

You can buy a plant to re-create that, or they can be raised from seed — although it can be a bit of a faff. Strelitzia are not hardy and should be brought indoors in autumn because they need a minimum temperature of 10-12°C.

Loam-based compost such as John Innes No 3, with added grit to improve drainage, is best for this South African native which can be difficult to germinate, but it will reward — in spades for a little care.

You should water regularly with rainwater and feed every fortnight once established, also allowing the growing medium to dry out in between. Sow the seed in early spring, two weeks after removing the orange tufts from the seed and popping them in a plastic bag with a handful of fresh compost.

Keep them in the fridge for that fortnight. Before you sow, soak the seeds overnight in lukewarm water and then nick the seed-coat with a knife or scratch with sandpaper.

Sow the seeds in seed compost in a propagator and keep moist. Germination can take two months and the plants can be pricked-out when they have a pair of leaves. Flowering can take up to ten years, but it’s worth the wait.

Propagation from division should produce flowering plants more speedily, either by dividing mature plants or removing rooted suckers and offsets in March.

Brigitte Minassian brought her strelitzia back from the Canary Islands some years ago and this has been the second summer it has flowered.

She says: “We have been watching the flower unfolding for some days now — it is like a miracle when it emerges from a small bud.”

George Perkins and his wife Marion, from Carisbrooke, are justifiably proud of their beautiful bird of paradise plant. They grew it from seed bought from Ventnor Botanic Garden and were rewarded for their patience.

Frank Phillips too has had stunning success, his blooming successfully for several years.

* Sue Bonny’s giant cacti found a good new home after I highlighted her prickly problem that had outgrown her ability to cope.

After being wrapped in blankets and hefted into Craig Dabbs’ van they will form the centrepiece of his new cacti garden. He promised, in return, to donate to Mountbatten in memory of Sue’s husband, Mike, who nurtured them.

I am really pleased to have helped a grand design come together which suits everyone.