Weather and bulbs

Mary Sue Ittner
Wed, 22 Mar 2006 21:25:01 PST
Dear All,

I  always enjoy reading about what is blooming where and have been too busy 
to add the flowering picture for Northern California. It's been wet. The 
last couple of years I've been lulled into forgetting the norm for where I 
live since we've only had a little more than 50 inches (1270 mm) of rain 
during our Mediterranean winters, forgetting when I first moved here those 
El Nino years when we had twice that amount. I doubt we'll get as much this 
year as those El Nino years, but it has rained more than the last few years 
and it doesn't look like it's ready to stop. I'm still keeping my fingers 
crossed for Bill Dijk's visit next week. I shelter some things in the 
greenhouse and others are on benches covered on the top, but still getting 
rain blowing in from the sides. But most of the rest just has to cope. It 
is one of the ways I guess I'll be curbing my bulb addiction. We've had a 
little short lasting snow, slush, and hail between the rain so a lot of my 
bulb leaves by now are looking a little worse for the wear. And there are 
pots that get carried back and forth to a bit more shelter when they are in 
bloom or it looks like we'll have freezing temperatures.

Reading some of your other reports however makes me realize that it could 
be worse. One thing we do have is a much longer time for things to bloom. 
Narcissus is an example. I don't grow a lot of the gorgeous hybrids because 
my garden isn't very sunny and they just disappear. But a number of years 
ago in an IBS BX Bill Dijk sent a number of species from New Zealand that I 
eventually turned around to my hemisphere and they start blooming in the 
late fall and continue so I've had one species or another in bloom since 
October. Narcissus jonquilla and Narcissus bulbocodium var. tenufolius are 
blooming at the moment. The same long time for blooming is true for 
Cyclamen. They start blooming late summer and continue. C. repandum, C. 
balericum, and C. creticum are blooming at the moment and there are still a 
few C. coum and C. pseuibericum in bloom as well. Some species can bloom 
for many many months. Muscari species sometimes start to bloom really early 
(October-November), take a break if it gets really cold, and then start up 
again in February and March. Since you have been writing about Helleborus, 
I always thought they would need a lot of water, but then I heard Wayne 
Roderick say they could stand dry summers. Terry Hatch gave me seed when I 
went to New Zealand and some of the resultant plants now are quite 
spectacular with so many beautiful flowers. And they really do survive 
without much summer water.

One plant that I have loved since I got it from Jane McGary a number of 
years ago is Hyacinthoides italica. I haven't heard a lot of praise for it 
although Jerry Flintoff did describe it in his Scilla intro. to the topic 
of the week. It appears to be considered a Scilla by some. I've added some 
pictures to the wiki so others might learn to appreciate it too. Jerry 
wrote that Hyacinthoides replaces its bulbs every year and that this 
species can naturalize. They seem like big bulbs to get replaced.…

My tulips are blooming now. They were one of my first bulb loves and I 
still love them. My large collection of South African bulbs are not all 
happy with the extra rain. Many of my Lachenalias (sheltered from the rain) 
have sickly leaves, but some are still blooming. There are a number like L. 
mutabilis that I can grow in the ground and they are blooming now. Even 
though I sterilize soil I reuse by heating it and then mix it with new soil 
when I repot bulbs, there are some things that don't seem to be killed by 
excessive heat and so I have them coming up in unexpected places. It could 
be those things that have tiny offsets that I miss when I repot. I have 
Geissorhiza inaequalis everywhere and a lot of Gladiolus tristis too and 
lots of Oxalis. Unlike some that dwindle this Geissorhiza is quite tough 
for me, tolerating all the rain without much problem. When it became clear 
we were going to get rain almost every day for a long time I picked some 
Freesia alba (I have many hundreds now in my garden) and some of the 
Gladiolus tristis. Walking through my garden on days when it is not raining 
and the temperature is not too cold the fragrance from the Freesia is 
wonderful and even rain in between doesn't stop that although the flowers 
get a bit trodden down. I never notice the Gladiolus fragrance since it 
happens at night, but when I picked it and brought it inside, for many 
nights, the house was filled with its fragrance too. Many of the Romuleas I 
grow are long blooming, opening when it isn't raining. Sparaxis is blooming 
now; some are a bit ratty from the weather. And there are Moraea aristata 
plants in bloom all over the place and Moraea tripetala is just now 
blooming too.

I'm reaching the long point or did much sooner when people will stop 
reading what I am writing, but want to announce some exciting first blooms 
in the last month or so. I was set to toss my Sprekelia since it never 
blooms. I was trying to decide if I'd try a deep black pot first when I 
noticed a spike on a plant Lee Poulsen talked me into buying ('Orient Red') 
at the Huntington, I think in 2002. It's a cultivar he said would bloom 
better than the species and since my species plants have never bloomed that 
now has proved to be true. The one flower was spectacular and I brought it 
inside so I could enjoy it as it rained outside during the whole time it 
was in bloom. Fritillaria messanensis grown from seed sown in 1999 is in 
bloom at the moment. I had to figure out what it was since I had given up 
on it long ago. There's just the one flower and the one plant. The others 
must have gone to bulb heaven long ago.…
Tecophilaea cyanocrocus var. violacea also started in 1999 has finally 
bloomed (one flower). Tecophilaeas, if they bloom, are not in bloom for 
long although the different forms do bloom different months. It can't be 
considered much of  a star bulb for me, but I was pleased this one finally 
bloomed. Erythronium helenae from seed started in 2001 and some from Jane 
via the BX both have bloomed a long time (starting in January) and have 
coped with the rain too. And, sound the trumpets, my Paramongia which I was 
sure would never ever bloom, is trying to do just that. I tried to make it 
summer growing after Alberto said that was when it grew in nature, but it 
just wouldn't grow that way. I tried it in my greenhouse hoping it would 
have more heat that way and it didn't seem to have enough light. So I put 
it outside and it definitely didn't seem to like all the rain. So it has 
resided next to my covered benches and I move it away from the rain during 
our rainy periods and out in the sun otherwise. The leaves by now are not 
very attractive, but I'm sure when the flowers open I'll manage to seem and 
not the leaves.  I'm hoping it will be open when Bill arrives next week 
since I bought it from him in 2002 when he visited in Pasadena.

In the ground there are hundreds of Moraea (Homeria subgroup) leaves (my 
husband called them thugs today) and Babiana leaves too so I expect to have 
another amazing display of both of them too. I finally got a Moraea 
comptonii (orange) grown from seed to bloom. I've tried before without much 
luck. It appears to be one of those species that only flowers  briefly. I 
managed to get a picture of one between storms and have added it to the 
wiki. I've been enjoying Babianas between storms for months now. B. villosa 
and B. secunda are in bloom at the moment. And I have nice Delphiniums 
blooming. I tried planting a few species in one of my raised bed octagons 
when I redid it and they are much more robust this way than in the ground 
or gallon cans which is how I have been growing them. The Pasithea I 
planted in that bed had part of the blooming stalk knocked off by the 
weather, but there are still some side blooms coming. Finally I got a 
Ranunculus palmata from Jane last year after someone described it as their 
favorite yellow flower when we were doing favorites. Even though Jane said 
it doesn't do well in her Oregon winters, I decided to plant it in the 
ground since our temperatures don't get as cold.  It has such nice bright 
yellow flowers and the back of the petals are red so it is attractive even 
when it is not warm enough for it to open all the way. I am also enjoying 
Anemone pavonina now in bloom and I added pictures of it to the wiki along 
with close-ups of Anemone palmata.…

It looks like just a few of us will be meeting Bill Dijk next Tuesday at my 
house, but I am sure we will enjoy being together even if the weather is 
wet. If anyone else wants to join us, please email me privately.

Mary Sue

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