Dear All, This weeks topic of the week continues our theme of discussing which bulbs can be easily grown in the ground in different climates. We started with Bulbs for the Pacific Northwest and followed it with Bulbs for Mediterranean climates. Cynthia Mueller has promised to organize something for Texas in the future and if any of the rest of you want your situation discussed and are willing to organize an introduction please contact me privately. Boyce Tankersley has provided the Introduction for this week's topic with an extremely interesting and complete picture of what has been successful in the Chicago Botanic Garden. Thank you Boyce and I look forward to hearing from the rest of you in this area about what grows well in your gardens. It always fascinates me what parts of the country are included in the term "Midwest." Mary Sue PBS List Administrator and TOW Coordinator Bulbs for Continental Climates: Upper Midwest As an avid gardener, I am constantly attempting to expand the list of bulbs hardy to this area through experimentation (or to grow better looking bulb displays of bulbs known to be hardy than my neighbors). The thrill associated with 'documenting' a new species of bulb hardy in this climate is similar to the thrill of seeing a new species in the wild for the first time (or getting the first kiss). It only happens once; it is a source of great pride (and no little bragging); and it is a memory to relish when the years get long and the joints start to get stiff. For the purpose of this introduction however, I am only going to cover the bulbs reliably hardy at the Chicago Botanic Garden and will depend upon other members of the group to relate their triumphs. Bulbs grown out-of-doors, regardless of where the garden is located, are at the mercy of the local environment. For the most part those that survive and thrive originate from environments with similar climatic extremes. The climate of the upper Midwest of the United States is described as having a continental climate. In brief, this means there are no large bodies of water sufficiently close to the area to moderate climatic extremes. This area enjoys seasonality with large changes in temperature (approximately 100 degrees F difference between winter lows and summer highs), length and intensity of the photoperiod (10 or less hours in winter, 14 or more hours in summer), precipitation (16 inches annually along the western edges of the area, 40 or more inches in the wetter eastern areas), relative or atmospheric humidity (on any given day can range from near 0 to 100 percent) and wind speed (from calm to hurricane force winds). An anonymous native remarked to an immigrant in the 19th century that if they didn't like the weather all they had to do is wait a few hours and it would change. For readers interested in learning more about the climate that dictates what bulbs we can easily grow, I recommend two sources. For those with short attention spans, the USDA climatic zone map is based upon average winter low temperatures. It identifies the area of the Upper Midwest as falling into zones 6 (south) through 3 (north). A more in-depth description of the climate can be found in the Sunset National Gardening Book. The zones in this publication are based upon a wider range of criteria and the information accompanying each zone description is very good. For the Upper Midwest, zones under discussion are: · 35 (Ouachita Mountains, Northern Oklahoma, Southern Kansas to North-Central Kentucky and Southern Ohio) · 39 (Shoreline Regions of the Great Lakes) · 40 (Inland Plains of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario) on the east. · 41 (Southeast Nebraska and Northeast Kansas to Northern Illinois and Indiana, Southeast Wisconsin, Michigan and Northern Ohio) · 43 (Upper Mississippi Valley, Upper Michigan, Southern Ontario and Quebec) · 45 (Northern Minnesota, Northwestern Wisconsin, Eastern Manitoba, Northern and Central Ontario and Quebec) Any garden within this area can experience the full range of any of the climatic variables within a short period of time (hours). The data I am reporting in this introduction comes from the Chicago Botanic Garden. This Garden has been open to the public for 31 years and has had a garden devoted to the growth of bulbs since 1983. A recently adopted Plant Collections Policy identified the goal of creating a nationally recognized collection of Narcissus and regionally significant collections of Iris and Allium. Much time and many resources will be needed before these goals are realized. For the purpose of this introduction, I am giving a synopsis of the bulbs that relatively perennial. A full inventory of all of the bulbs in the Garden can be obtained by using the Searchable Database within the Living Plant Documentation department on the Chicago Botanic Garden website (http://www.chicagobotanic.org/). Also available on this website is a list of 'What's In Bloom' that is updated every two weeks throughout the year. The name Chicago is derived from a local Indian tribe name for 'stinking onion' and the Garden displays a number of Alliums used in our ornamental displays. In general our cultural practices do not encourage the naturalization of this genus and we do have problems with rot where Alliums are interplanted with summer annuals that require high levels of irrigation. Even in the areas that have the least amount of summer irrigation the taxa from Central Asia are not long term perennials. Alstroemeria 'Sarah' is one of our bragging points. Initially planted as an annual in the mid-90's, several plants missed the rototiller and have happily survived our winters and rewarded us with flowers ever since. The need for more research is suggested. Anyone else have Alstroemeria that are perennial? The genus Anemone is represented by native and introduced taxa. In this Garden the introduced taxa (blanda cultivars) are heavily predated by chipmunks and squirrels. The native taxa are wonderful features of our natural areas but can be a pest when in seed. Arisaema, other than the native triphylla, are relative recent additions to the Garden but are proving more hardy than the literature suggested. Their tendency to come up later in the season may be a key attribute in their hardiness in this area. The Arums, with their tendency to start growth in fall and carry it through the winter get beaten up by our cold dry winter winds when snow cover is lacking, and, I suspect, resent the summer monsoons that accompany the remnants of hurricanes that have landed on the Gulf of Mexico. They hold on, but just barely, and are much more attractive in the more southern reaches of the Upper Midwest. Belamcanda and the closely related Pardancanda are at best biennials in this climate. Seed production is key to keeping good displays of either genus in our Garden. Brimeura amethystina has suffered from use only in annual displays. Having said that, it appears to be winter hardy, surviving fall plantings and blooming well the following year. Bulbocodium vernum is one of those bulbs that I did not know before moving to Chicago, and after checking the references, I am surprised that it grows as well as it does. It doesn't appear to reseed but the bulbs have grown in our Bulb Garden since 1993. The Camassia's are native to this region and all of them perform very well. They apparently appreciate the heavy clay soils and the summer moisture. Cardiocrinum, an addiction of mine since I first saw them in flower at Inverewe Gardens on the northwest coast of Scotland, still elude us. In the best of gardening traditions, we continue to order small quantities and try them in different areas of the Garden. Other gardeners in this region boast of success and I anxiously await their descriptions of the conditions under which they get this queen of the bulb world to flower and naturalize. Chiondoxa thrive, reseed, hybridize, and perennialize in this Garden despite being predated by deer, rabbits, chipmunks and squirrels. Claytonia virginica, harborer of early spring, is a native of our woodlands. Unfortunately it is missing from our Garden flora. Colchicums deserve to be more widely planted. They are reliably hardy, resistant to predation, and can be either fall blooming or spring blooming. The spring bloomers are not as large as the fall bloomers but the masses of flowers more than make up for the smaller size (a little larger than hybrid Crocus). Colchicum kesselringii spawned hundreds of seedlings several years ago and their growth is much anticipated this spring. Corydalis that form bulbs or rhizomes have both proven to be hardy in the Garden. Those that have not survived in the trials have either suffered from frost-heaving or from predation by rabbits. Corydalis pumila has reseeded around the trial plants. The Garden has not experimented with any Crinum outdoors. Crocosmia deserves a more intense evaluation in our Garden. A number of corms have escaped the rototiller and have reappeared for a number of years. The range of new colors available and their ability to survive over time suggests an opportunity. Crocus are a charming part of the Garden, but must be supplemented to maintain good displays. Predation is certainly a factor but heavy wet summer soils and late spring frosts also take their toll. In the southern end of the region Crocus tomasinianus naturalizes and survives in spite of predation. Cyclamen dislike the heavy mulches used to control weeds and are particularly sensitive to heavy wet layers of large deciduous leaves in late fall and through winter. An informal trial is underway to see if they survive long term under a grove of Juniperus virginiana, and initial results are promising. Eranthis thrive and reseed, though not vigorously. The seedlings apparently prefer the bed on the other side of the path. Eremurus have survived and thrived in select locations and we continue to search for additional locations that they will live in. They seem to favor south and west facing walls and locations where the tender growing point will not be trampled during the dormant season. Erythronium when in a 'good' location increase in size of clump and are good perennials. Unfortunately there are a number of not-good locations where they would be spectacular if they would only survive. They don't appear to reseed. The Fritillarias appear to be much more tolerant of our conditions than their native ranges would suggest. The tetraploid selections of imperialis are much better perennials than their diploid cousins. This suggests that perhaps a little colchicine on some of the other species might result in some interesting improvements for the Garden. The snowdrops, Galanthus, are reliably hardy in this Garden. The plants supplied by commercial growers in the past have been a random mixture of species. This makes for a prolonged display but drives documentation staff like myself bonkers. Hyacinthoides or whatever name this bulb currently passes for, is a short lived perennial. It would be interesting to obtain some seed from native populations at the extreme edge of this taxon's range to see if hardier clones could be found for this climate. Ipheion, subject of recent discussions on the listserve, are hardy but do not multiple readily. The cultivar/undescribed species 'Rolf Fiedler' has not been tried outdoors. The bulbous Iris thrive in this climate. Clumps increase to delightful size and the blooms/foliage is not heavily predated. Incredibly tough, the flowers fly through late cold snaps and snows with little damage. The bearded iris suffer from Iris borer but yet thrive. Amazingly tough and adaptable plants. Iris bucharica is the only Juno that has successfully been grown for a number of years. In the right location it clumps up nicely. No viable seed has been found to date, perhaps the Garden needs a second clone? Several other species are informally under evaluation and the jury is still out on them. Siberian iris thrive where many of the Japanese cultivars do not. Louisiana types survive but do not flower with the same vigor as they did in the southern end of the range. Leucojum are reliable perennials and increase clump size over time. No seedlings have been observed. Lilium is the subject of a new breeding program at the Garden. Most lilies are hardy to this climate and if the deer, rabbits and viruses can be held at bay are great garden plants. The tetraploids are resistant to viruses, so far, but still favored food for deer. The Lycoris are much hardier than their native ranges would suggest (or perhaps our knowledge of the climate in their native range needs to be improved). At the Garden, only Lycoris radiata has not proven to be hardy. Taxa that produce winter foliage are not as vigorous as those that produce foliage in the spring. Muscari, with their strong tendency to produce leaves in the fall and carry them through the winter are not as nearly as vigorous as they are in the southern end of the Upper Midwest region. Flowers are good, reseeding does not happen. Narcissus, particularly trumpet, large cup and small cup are well represented in the collections. Almost all clump up nicely over time. At least one of the species, Narcissus asturiensis, has grown well in the Bulb Garden for the last ten years. Narcissus bulbocodium and cultivars do not survive well, and rarely flower a second year. Nectascordium siculum has graced the Garden for the last five years. Not many Ornithogalum have been tried. O. umbellatum is only slightly less weedy here than it is in the southern end of this area. O. balansae from the Caucasus is showing great promise. Puschkinia and Scilla all are good perennials and reseed, in a nice way, around the original plantings. Deer and rabbits graze them but the sheer numbers guarantee success. Tulips are beautiful annuals and some can form perennial clumps that produce flowers over time. In areas with sandier soils in Michigan tulips are grown commercially. Outside the Garden, where the mandate to interplant with summer annuals does not result in frequent summer irrigation, some species and their cultivars show promise of becoming true perennials.