June bulb news

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Thu, 19 Jun 2008 11:54:13 PDT
I just returned (not without weather-related hassles, of course) from the 
NARGS annual meeting in Ottawa, Canada, which was well organized by the 
regional Ottawa Valley Chapter. The only bulb seen on the field trips was 
Lilium philadelphicum, flowering mostly as scattered individuals in a 
recently burned area. The plants had unusually short stems, which one local 
expert thought had resulted from the especially hard winter preceding this 
spring. We were also taken to view lovely populations of Cypripedium reginae.

The NARGS Book Service manager reported that she had an overstock of the 
book "Bulbs of North America," and I volunteered to try to sell off some of 
these at a remainder price. I'll announce their availability when she has 
shipped them to me with the exact price to be asked. If you don't have this 
book yet, it contains extensive chapters on the major North American genera 
(e.g., Calochortus, Fritillaria) and on the smaller genera of each climatic 
region, with both habitat and cultivation information. The publisher and I 
think it failed to sell as well as hoped because all the photos are in one 
section rather than associated on the page with the text. Lots of pretty 
color photos is to selling books as lots of pretty color flowers is to 
selling plants.

When I checked the bulb frame on my return, I found Calochortus kennedyi in 
flower, grown from Ron Ratko's seed collection. This brilliant orange 
mariposa (a yellow form also exists) is native to the mountains of the 
desert Southwest. Mine took 5 years from germination to flowering, which is 
a little longer than average for the genus. C. amabilis is very pretty just 
now, but a rabbit climbed into the frame and nipped all but one of the 
stems from C. invenustus, which is an unusual color near blue.

Even more unusual in color is Ixia viridiflora, which has managed a tall 
stem of its glowing turquoise blooms despite a very cold winter (I suppose 
it isn't an Ixia any more -- has it fallen to the advance of the Freesia 

In the garden, the main bulb interest is currently provided by the taller 
Ornithogalum species, the Brodiaea alliance (including Dichelostemma, 
Triteleia, and Bloomeria), and Allium (mostly American species). The 
hummingbirds, now raising their young, find plenty to eat from the 
Dichelostemma and Kniphofia species in particular; earlier they were busy 
pollinating Fritillaria recurva, darting into the frames while I worked 
there. I was surprised to see them feeding from Menziesia flowers, which 
are small and dull in color. Color isn't necessary to attract them: one of 
their favorites is Aesculus californica, a white-flowered "horse chestnut."

I saw (i.e., heard and then saw) the first bulb fly of the season just 
yesterday, but this year I have the Sternbergias grouped under Reemay 
(nonwoven row cover fabric) and hope to foil these devilish insects. I wish 
they'd stick with the hundreds of garden daffodils instead of seeking 
gourmet fare for their young.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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