TOW--Bulbs for Pacific Northwest
Thu, 23 Jan 2003 10:03:40 PST
Mary Sue, Ernie, Diana, et al ~

My "thing" is daffodils.

I have a very small ( micro? ) daffodil nursery on a wind swept ridge near Silverton, Oregon, a little town east of Salem and 1000' up in the foothills of the Cascades.

While, in the past, I would attempt to grow almost any Spring-flowering bulb back in MN where I'm originally from, at one point I had to make a decision on where to concentrate time and resources.

The daffodils won out, but in recent years, lilies have begun to creep back in and I would never be without the hyacinth of Spring, the crocus of late Winter, and Colchicum, Galanthus, Ipheion, Lycoris -- there is so much and so little time . . . .!Daffodils grow well in the PNW (Pacific Northwest) but don't sell well there because they are denizens of almost every farm hedgerow, pasture and urban garden.

The Dutch sell increasing thousands of the same clones each Fall, a fact that would indicate there is a market, perhaps for something different but at prices that can't be sustained if one wants to pay the mortgage. 

Oregon is also the preferred area (Willamette Valley ) for those who would hybridize and grow this genus for retail sale in niche businesses.

Those who want to collect Historic or Heirloom daffodils have a field day driving around in Spring and attending the annual daffodil show in Amity where there is a Children's Section that often has more flowers ( 900-1000+ ) in it than the entire rest of the show!

These kids pick something from Grandma's garden or the local fence row and enter them in the show; it's fun, but a judging headache! 
Thus, I find it strange that Diana seems to have trouble with them. 

Having said all of that, I have to say that the species ( like species of almost any genus, I guess ) can be exasperatingly fussy! 

For example, I have ten bulbs of N. dubius that I've had for many years; they've never bloomed and haven't multiplied either ( although they do well for some folks in the Los Angeles basin ). 

On the other hand, both N. triandrus triandrus (albus) and N. cyclamineus do grow well for me and each season I'm usually able plant out several hundred seed of each to continue the strain.

While I can probably prattle on endlessly about daffodils, I really can't provide a great deal of information about anything else. 

That fact won't stop me from getting out on thin ice by making some comments, however!

>Camassia, a native that grows in meadows near the sea, has continued to bloom for the couple of decades since I planted it, but I haven't seen any increase. 

The species are native to this area and one can find swaths of them in low spots along I5 and other roads in late Spring.  While I've often wanted to try some of the selected forms, I haven't up to this point but would grow them ( as they are in Nature ) in full sun and moisture retentive soil that could be kept damp in the Summer.

>Chionodoxa - several cvs and species bloom but don't increase. 

What used to be luciliae and is now gigantea grows, multiplies and seeds abundantly, both the usual blue form and the alba form, as well. Over the years, I have selected out of the blue form plants with less and less white in their centers.

>Erythronium oregonum and a natural hybrid of it with revolutum grow well.

I started with a couple of plants of each, and each year take the seed and toss it around the base of another tree. Now I have dozens. E. revolutum is a streambank plant so doesn't like it dry. As the epithet indicates, E. oregonum is native to Oregon.

My former leasehold was near Hebo where these species are locally common in ungrazed, dampish, partly wooded areas. I've been taken back into some of these brushy areas to be enthralled by this species carpeting the ground. I must admit to being rather confused about the difference between these two species (?). I seem to recall seeing something recently where the species was said to be revolutum and oregonum a subspecies of it.

This is a genus that I would like to know better and grow more of; alas, it will have to await space more appropriate to its needs.

>No Fritillaries have survived here yet. 
>I know that I should have watered F. meleagris more assiduously, but I haven't figured out >yet why persica and imperialis didn't come up a second time. Maybe they need summer water, too. 

While I currently have only some forms of imperialis, I would expect meleagris to do well in OR, as well. 

Back in MN, I had a goodly sized clump of persica that grew well under my office window. 

It faced due South and, outside of some auxiliary watering during growth, received very little during Summer as it grew under a fairly wide overhang; I would imagine the exposed sandy soil got quite warm on those 90+ degree days common to late Summer. 

I had several forms of meleagris back there, as well, growing among the hosta, lilies and azalea on the North side of the house. 

This should do well wherever one can provide dampish, humusy soil, probably protected from the midday sun of Summer.

> Galanthus really like it here, and I like them. 
>I grow any species I can from seed, and have brought named forms here from England. 
>I have been selecting unusual forms of G. elwesii from my grandmother's garden where they >have been seeding themselves for 80 years. 

>I would agree. 

The landlord on my former lease had a thirty-foot wide patch of G. nivalis some fifty years old that was a sheet of white each February. 

Alas, this is another one of those things where my resolve to focus on just one thing begins to seriously weaken . . .

>Hyacinths last for decades but don't increase. 

I would never be without swaths of hyacinth! To me, their fragrance is the very essence of Spring.  I can't say, however, that I've been very successful ( until recently ) with them in OR. 

I don't know if it's been the frequent shifting from one location to another or the conditions where they're forced to grow. In the first year on the current lease, I transferred my collection of hyacinth from MN to OR and lost just about everything. I have a feeling it was due to very late planting (Dec). Since the landlord was doing it, I have no idea what shape the bulbs were in when planted ( I had to ask several times to get the job done. ). 

In the Coastal Range lease, the bulbs disappeared after a couple of seasons. 

I have since begun rebuilding my collection and now grow them in somewhat elevated beds that should provide good drainage during the Winter wet and dryish conditions during the Summer dry period. This seems to produce very good-looking bulbs so, perhaps, this is the secret for this climate. 

On the other hand, they grow well in Holland where the soil is nearly pure sand but the average temperatures much cooler in the Summer, although they do get Summer moisture. 

As a hybridizer, I have to say I've had only very limited success with this genus. I have a number of seedlings coming on -- uniformly vigorous things -- but nothing, really, to show for an almost thirty-year effort.  While there is always abundant open pollinated seed, as well as from actual crosses, little of it seems to germinate or grow the following seasons. I usually try to get it planted within a few days of collection, while it is still plump and shiny. I have also planted long afterward when the seed has dried with similar, marginal results. 

> Leucojum vernum is now going to have a better chance to survive here, since I visited it in the squelchy stream banks it calls home in the Czech Republic.

I have had some of this for twenty-five years having received the first bulbs from Judy Glattstein when she spoke during a Minnesota Hort. Society Winter meeting. 

This is one bulb that will not tolerate being dry and wants to be damp during dormancy and "squelchy" during growth.
> Lilium - I have bought hundreds and the only ones that have survived are ones I have grown from seed, several of which are 30 years old. 

Like daffodils, Oregon is the preferred home for lily hybridizers; the most famous of whom was Jan de Graaff and his Oregon Bulb Farms. 

There are also several species that are native to the PNW. These, however, have to bear the caveat, "duplicate their growing conditions if you want to be successful." 

Many of the hybrids grow vigorously and multiply like abandoned rabbits! The Longiflorum-Asiatic (LA) hybrids will develop 15-20 bulblets on each stem, in addition to annually tripling the underground bulb. 

The newer Oriental-Trumpet (OT) hybrids are probably the most rewarding for many gardeners. In particular, the OT 'Arabesque,' will grow with such vigor that after becoming well established one is required to take a saw to the old stem to remove it! 

In appropriate conditions, the lily relative Cardiocrinum, will produce stems ten feet tall with a dozen blooms. Hikers can use the dried stalks as walking sticks. If you have the location (fairly heavy shade) and soil (deep leaf mold) you will be successful with this. 
The tip of the bulb wants to be exposed (the upper 1-2"). 
>Narcissus ought to do well, but really don't. 
>I have bought hundreds of these, too, including beautiful Mitsch ones I chose in flower in >Oregon. They last for a while. Maybe the narcissus fly gets them. 

The large Narcissus fly is endemic to the PNW and, if not stringently controlled, will decimate a collection. This is a pest of virtually any tunicate bulb grown here and requires constant vigilance to achieve control. Control ranges from use of appropriate insecticides to covering the growing area with various fabrics to exclude the insect. 

The best, for a business such as mine, is to dig annually and hot water treat the stocks. 
It's a lot of work and I don't do everything every year but rely, instead, on spraying. 

Bulbs grown for cut flower sales are kept down for several seasons and are sprayed several times during the growing season for control. There are several, effective "homemade" bulb cookers that can be created from large trash cans, insulation and high quality instrumentation.

> Some tulips are good perennials here. Tulipa batalinii in various colour forms bloomed for about 15 years until their area became too shady. The Apeldoorns in reds and yellows increase. 

The species tulips do survive, although they did much better when dug annually and replanted to avoid the Summer wet of the old lease in the Coast Range but quickly disappeared when not dug. 

I broke down this year and bought a number of Kaufmaniana, Greigii and Lily-flowered tulips because I was tired of being without those longtime favorites of yesteryear. I have no idea how they will do in Oregon. They are planted in the beds containing the hyacinth so will be dryish and warm during dormancy. I can only wait and see what happens to them over the years.

Deer are constant pest in the region -- really, the equivalent of four-footed lawnmowers. 
There are several effective controls of varying cost: an electrified ten foot fence, a double fence or saddle of venison.

Cyclamen hederifolium grows everywhere out here, sometimes quite thickly. 
It grows in flat urban gardens fully exposed to rain and sun and in lightly shaded, dryish areas under trees or shrubs. Doesn't seem make much difference in performance either way ( probably because our Summers are dry from June through October ). 

For a number of years, I've had several corms growing in poor, dryish soil, shaded from the sun and protected overhead from the Winter rains. The clumps bloom and set seed profusely. 

One can almost make an entire garden with the highly varied leaf forms of this one. I have an acquaintance whose wooded area is absolutely carpeted with forms of hederifolium.  He said that he gathers the seed each year and scatters it in an area where there are none growing and a few years later - Voila!! 

I noticed one very tiny ( i.e., a miniature form ) plant of the album form. It's flowers were barely 1/2" in length and the whole plant less than 3" in height with proportionately tiny leaves and stems. I will have to go back again this Fall to see if it grows there still. 

I have to admit being a miserable failure with several attempts at growing C. coum. Have no idea why. Probably wants to be a little deeper and damper in Summer than the hederifolium; I don't know.

>So, what other exciting bulbs are people growing, or have to suggest, for the garden in >Pacific Northwest? 

I certainly don't grow all of the exotic things that so many in this group do but that's moot as I am, on the whole, pretty satisfied with what I do get to grow.

> ( Ernie O'Byrne pretty well sums up the situation nicely for this part of the country ) 

"It should also be understood that parts of the Pacific Northwest, such as much of the Seattle area and the islands to the west, and Vancouver, do not experience quite the extremes that we do here in our garden and also that parts experience much more in the way of extreme conditions than we do (such as Jane McGary's garden). 

So, we cannot paint all of the PNW with the same brush, but let's talk generalities. 

What bulbs might be expected to grow in cold, wet winters, with either warm, dry summer conditions, or with added irrigation in summer.

What we do grow are the usual suspects such as many of the smaller bulbs, Chionodoxa, Anemones blanda, hortensis, pavonina and the hybrid between the latter two X fulgens, Galanthus, Narcissus (nothing particularly special), Cyclamen--mostly coum and hederifolium varieties, various Scilla such as siberica, scilloides, pushkinioides, peruviana, litardieri, autumnalis, as well as the thugs.

We also do well with Erythronium revolutum, which is, happily, my favorite, less well with oregonum (we may water too much in summer to keep it happy).

E. hendersonii, americanum, dens-canus and various hybrids also do quite well.

I've never succeeded with grandiflorum or montanum, never actually succeeding in getting them large enough to plant out. 

Dave Karnstedt
Cascade Daffodils
Silverton, Oregon

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