Favorite Purple Bulbs--TOW

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Wed, 22 Sep 2004 08:39:00 PDT
I'm going to assume that "purple" refers to deep violet -- the color of the 
darker Dutch crocuses -- rather than bluish red or pale colors that we 
might call "lavender."

Given that, the shiny violet of big crocuses is also found in some forms of 
Crocus vernus, the ancestor of those large selections, which is not so 
showy but less prone to flop over in bad weather, since its tube is 
shorter. My favorite is one I bought under the name 'Haarlem Gem'; Antoine 
Hoog told me it is not that clone (which has grayish outer segments), but 
just a good form of C. vernus ssp. vernus. Similar colors can be found in 
the normally paler C. tommasinianus, the rich violets being available in 
clones such as 'Whitewell Purple'.

I share Mary Sue's enthusiasm for the gleaming, large-flowered Brodiaea 
elegans. Dichelostemma congesta can also be a rich color, though not 
always. I have seen a plant said to be the natural hybrid Dichelostemma x 
venusta that had flowers of deep red-violet. (Lately we have seen the Dutch 
selection 'Pink Diamond' introduced and said to be this same cross, but I 
doubt this, having heard the story of its introduction from the original 
collector; I suspect 'Pink Diamond' is either a variant of D. ida-maia, or 
a hybrid of that species and D. volubile.)

I think the best "purple" in the bulbous irises is to be seen in selections 
of Iris latifolia, the "English" iris (it actually comes from Spain). It 
resembles "Dutch" (hybrids of Spanish species) irises in form but flowers 
later and is more winter-hardy. Many selections of Reticulata iris species 
and hybrids are available, most of them in the blue-violet range but some 
more red-violet, such as 'George'.

Many fritillarias are described as violet or purple, but the color is not 
bright, so although I love the plants I wouldn't offer them as shining 
examples of color. The modifiers "dusky," "brownish," and "muddy" are often 
used along with "purple" for these flowers.

And let's not forget the genus Allium, which offers many showy species, 
especially from Central Asia, in bright violet. Most of them are tall 
plants for the border.

There are purple Alstroemerias, most of which are quite tender. The one I 
grow is A. phillippii, and it is truly gorgeous -- a small plant with large 
flowers of lavender boldly streaked in deep violet -- but I have to 
remember to pull the pot out of the frame and carry it into the greenhouse 
when deep frost threatens.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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