Bulbs in Bloom

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Sun, 17 Apr 2005 11:15:32 PDT
Dear All,

I am often asked when is my garden at its best and I'm not sure when to 
answer. Those early blooms are so exciting that at the moment they appear I 
am quite entranced. Late winter through spring is probably best in a 
Mediterranean garden. Many of my South African bulbs are done now, but 
there are those that bloom later just as my California bulbs are starting 
and those combinations with spring blooms from my shrubs are making me want 
to spend all day in my garden at the moment just wandering around and 
taking it all in. It seems appropriate to mention that my Homerias (aka 
Moraea, Homeria subgroup) are rather amazing at the moment. I know Jim 
Waddick only was interested in things that reseed in hardy climates, but 
there is no reason why some of the rest of us can't mention what appears 
for us when we don't get around to deadheading. I do cut off the seed pods 
now if I get around to it of the things that reseed in my garden in great 
quantity like Freesia alba, Sparaxis, Ixia, Babiana, Homeria, Ipheion, 
Geissorhiza inaequalis, but since they keep popping up in unusual places I 
must not get them all. My Sparaxis are almost done blooming and the 
Babianas are coming along well. I have some I grew from seed (mixed 
Babiana) more than 20 years ago when I lived in Stockton. Probably they are 
hybrids. They are wonderful plants in my garden (except for the fact that 
you have to cut off the foliage when it dies back.) I know many of you have 
said you can't grow them and maybe that is the reason why when I donated a 
lot of blooming sized corms last year they weren't snapped up by the BX. 
Some purple ones are planted next to a magenta one next to some silver 
plants and that is a nice combination. I also like the purple next to my 
native Camissonia ovata. This is a plant with bright yellow flowers and 
almost a geophyte. It has a very long tap root that looks kind of like a 
tuber and is dormant in summer. Each year it comes back bigger with more 
flowers. Like Scoliopus after blooming the pods lean over and get buried in 
the soil and the ants distribute the seed.

I have quite a lot of the gold Homerias this year and I really like them. 
The bright orange ones however blend nicely with the reddish new leaves of 
my Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) plants and I photographed one with a 
purple Felicia and the combination was quite striking.  In one part of my 
garden where I didn't plant many bulbs, but they have planted themselves, I 
have masses of color: orange, gold, yellow, bicolored Homerias, several 
colors of Babiana, white, pink and yellow Ixias, Pacific Iris hybrids, 
mixed colors, Dichelostemma capitatum, and some Moraea bellendenii and 
Tritonia deusta that I did plant. There are a number of Moraea vegeta in 
that area too and some annual Lupine, but they are short and kind of 
overwhelmed by some of the others. The dwarf Watsonias are opening in my 
raised beds and will be blooming in the ground soon. I was shocked to see a 
red flower blooming close to a patch of Amaryllis belladonna leaves and to 
realize it was probably Gladiolus cunonius. At least I planted Anomalesia 
cunonia in that spot probably 14 years ago and I haven't seen it since the 
first or second year after planting it. Did it also like our patch of warm 
dry weather in March or have I just not noticed it for the Amaryllis 
leaves? It only has a couple of flowers, unlike some I grow in a pot that 
have many more. I guess with bulbs you never know for sure if they have died.

In my pots I still have Romuleas blooming, Geissorhizas, the two 
Fritillarias native to here and quite a number of native Alliums blooming 
or about to bloom. Calochortus uniflorus, C. tolmiei, umbellatus, amoenus, 
and the first C. venustus are in bloom and Triteleia hyacinthina, ixioides, 
montana, lilacina and T. laxa are blooming too. Erythronium californicum is 
just finishing. The Brodiaeas have good spikes, but none have opened yet. 
This year I have having really good bloom from the three Leucocoryne 
species I grow. I took them last summer upstairs when they were dormant. My 
upstairs gets very warm in the summer during the day and they appreciated 
that. Cyrtanthus brachyscaphus and mackenii are still blooming and so is 
Moraea tripetala which started blooming in February! Moraea fugax is 
blooming and what looks like a Moraea, Hexaglottis subgroup that I have no 
clue where it came from since I have no record of getting any seed of it. 
And I still have Cyclamen creticum and repandum blooming. These Lachenalias 
are in bloom: L. orthopetala, bachmanii, contaminata, mathewsii, 
juncifolia, liflora, elegans, pustulata, unicolor, haarlemensis, and today 
when I passed I caught a strong smell of coconut coming from Lachenalia 
violacea. The only Lapeirousia I seem to be able to get to bloom, 
Lapeirousia corymbosa, has just started to bloom. Luckily it is a really 
pretty thing. Although as usual a lot of my Ornithogalum dubium are sulking 
underground there is one pot of orange ones with a lot of blooms just now 
starting and another yellow with one rather pathetic start. I have a second 
bloom from Pelargonium barklyi that I started from seed fall 2003. My 
Veltheimia bracteata is a little past peak as is the last of the tulips, 
Tulipa batalini. Lets see I think I neglected to mention my Delphiniums 
blooming in the ground and in pots: D. nudicaule, luteum, hesperium, 
patens, with others coming. Arthropodium strictum which seems to be the 
only Australian bulb that I can reliably flower has just started.

Two Brunsvigia pots that I have not replanted in a number of years have 
interlopers. I don't know if I'll ever see the Brunsvigia bloom, but this 
winter in one pot Cyclamen coum bloomed well and now Triteleia hendersonii 
and Allium hyalinum are blooming in that same pot. I don't know if these 
were errant seeds or seed pots I gave up on and reused the soil. I 
certainly didn't plant them. In the Brunsvigia bosmaniae pots with the 
leaves dying back now I had an earlier Ixia rapunculoides bloom and not 
something that is looking very like it is going to be a species Gladiolus, 
maybe. I've never seen it before in that pot. Alberto made me realize that 
it was o.k. to be less fussy about bulb companions not being the same as 
long as the storage organ can help you identify it.

Sorry about this being too long. I've been composing over the last couple 
of days and my enthusiasm is getting out of hand. I added some additional 
pictures to the Geissorhiza wiki page. Geissorhiza monanthos and 
Geissorhiza radians are both blooming now and I guess I don't find their 
blooms too small. I still find them a marvel in complexity and beauty. I've 
added a few pictures of some of the corms of various species since they 
really are different. This will probably be a long term project for me and 
I'm sure I'll get better at it with practice and can improve on the 
pictures. I started out thinking Geissorhiza geminata blooming the first 
time this year from seed for me reminded me of a number of Hesperanthas 
only with smaller flowers, but it is open during the day and I have enjoyed 
it. New pictures of corms, Geissorhiza geminata, Geissorhiza monanthos (in 
number), Geissorhiza splendidissima, Geissorhiza mathewsii (the only 
picture I got before it went to bulb heaven a few years ago), and an 
unknown species that Rossouw Malherbe was growing in South Africa a number 
of years ago. If anyone recognizes it (that is if anyone is still reading 
this), please let me know.

This time of the year I forget about how much work it is to pot up all 
those bulbs and how I really need to have fewer. As much as I delight about 
the individual blooms in pots, it's my garden that really inspires me. I 
just wish more of those bulbs I grow in pots could survive in the ground.

Mary Sue 

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