bulb condition on receipt

info@auchgourishbotanicgarden.org info@auchgourishbotanicgarden.org
Thu, 17 Jul 2008 15:08:11 PDT
I wonder if I might add a comment on this, specifically in relation to Lilium.

It is manifestly obvious that the commerical wholesalers and retailers of substance, in the sense of big name outfits here in Europe, are with very few exceptions entirely incompetent in terms of the supply of bulbs of the Lilium genus. Essentially it seems to me that they make little, if any, distinction on what the requirments are for these bulbs and deal with them much as they do with other genera such as Narcissus, Iris, Tulipa, etc.. The roots are trimmed back to within a centimetre of the bulb's ability to sustain or produce growth in the following season. In addition they are blissfully unaware of the ease with which Lilium can acquire grey mould = botrytus or others and ship bulbs which are clearly partially desicated some indeed are flabby to the point of falling apart.

I have made a special investigation last autumn and this spring by the experiemtal buying of bulbs from UK and Dutch outfits, people with so called great reputations and the same story was repeated without exception in Europe. There was one exception, an American nurseryman whose products AND his methods of transport were exemplary. 

In my opinion both Lilium and Fritillaria require entirely different methods of handling from other genera as well as timing in comparison with bulbs with so called ' net jackets'. Jim's concerns about Fritillaria imperialis have an echo here as these two genera, Lilium & Fritillaria, are closer related than we all might suppose and by reason of that fact their bulbs are more vulnerable to damage in transit and virus and fungal infections, especially when storage is not addressed with the care it needs. By virtue of the roots being trimmed back to the basal plate the chances of Lilies growing and flowering to the species potential are seriously compromised, certainly in their first year. 

In one instance of a species where I ordered 10 bulbs their condition on arrival was so aweful I decided to run an experiment. Half the bulbs were planted as they arrived and they still have not grown in any way, I happened to look at them only yesterday, the other half I broke up into scales and inserted into damp vermiculite with the result I have been almost overwhelmed by young bulbils from almost every scale, in some cases I got two bulbils ! I think I will now try to break up the remaining bulbs into scales and repeat the process, clearly they don't intend to do much in their present state, devoid of much of a functioning root plate as they are.

Perhaps folk seeking bulbs of either Lilium or Fritillaria and who live in North America should contact Tony Avent of Plant Delights Nursery because it was he who took so much care and trouble to help me out ..... hands across the pond indeed.... Tony sent me bulbs of three species, they arrived in tip top condition and are all due to flower here in the wild north in about two to three weeks time. They were healthy when they arrived and I have clearly failed to kill them.... thankfully. Perhaps Jim Waddick could knock on Tony's door first off to see if he can help with F. imperialis, if he can't he will surely know someone else who works to his high standards. 

I would say that this species requires absolutely perfect drainage, it smells like foxes incidentally and it does not like being planted in any kind of shade. Late frosts kept knocking mine back until they were repositioned with a screen of fleece on the south side. However even if frosted they have always come back up the next year but over time this is debilitating for them. My pH is 4.5 which proved to be too low for them and I had to make an effort to raise it to around pH 6.0 which seems more suited to them. They also by the way need to have what one might term 'dry rest' in late summer early autumn.

I hope this helps and is of interest,   Iain

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