Bulbs at the WWSW

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Wed, 05 Mar 2008 10:13:35 PST
Last weekend the Western Winter Study Weekend was held in Vancouver, BC. 
These study weekends, eastern and western, are an annual function of NARGS, 
but the western weekends are hosted on a rotating basis by the currently 
independent rock garden societies of British Columbia as well as by NARGS 
chapters. Some of the speakers (usually 8 to 10 during the weekend) always 
focus on bulbs. The meetings are open to non-members of the sponsoring 
societies at a small additional fee. The next one will be held in Portland, 
Oregon, March 13-15, 2009 and will include two talks by Ian Young, a 
well-known bulb grower from Scotland, and one by John Lonsdale of 
Pennsylvania, who a notable member of this discussion group. There will 
also be a really big plant sale. I encourage PBS members to consider 
attending; write me privately for a detailed description.

The Vancouver meeting's bulb talks included two by Jim Almond from England, 
who grows many kinds of bulbs but most notably Juno irises, and two by 
Henrik Zetterlund of the Gothenburg Botanic Garden, who also concentrates 
on geophytes to some degree. Perhaps because Almond grows many plants for 
competitive showing, the techniques he discussed are more exacting than 
many of us would need to apply to our Junos that we grow just for our own 
enjoyment. One segment of his talk included a group of plants (e.g., I. 
magnifica, I. vicaria) that he regards as suitable for the open garden, and 
another group that he considers must be grown under glass. The difference 
between UK and Northwest America conditions was brought home to me forcibly 
this morning, when I finally had time to walk around my rock garden and 
found that a single division of Iris 'Sindpers', planted out on a berm two 
years ago, had increased to a spreading clump of 5 crowns and was in full 
bloom after a wetter and colder than average winter. This was one of 
Almond's "not for the garden" plants. This encourages me to test more Junos 
in the open.

The most interesting (to me, anyway) information I took from Henrik 
Zetterlund's talks was his discussion of the new bulb house at Gothenburg. 
It's a large metal-supported structure with a tempered glass roof and no 
sides. Since temperatures there can dip to minus 20 C (minus 4 F), I asked 
him if they would temporarily enclose the sides during cold periods, and he 
said they would not, but he would probably cover the plants with something 
like microfoam sheets. This launched me on plans for the bulb-and-alpine 
house I'll install on my newly purchased "city" (actually woodsy suburb) 
property before I remove there in 4 or 5 years. An open-sided structure 
should be even more effective in one of Portland's banana belts, and will 
eliminate the expense and fuss of vents. By eliminating the expense of side 
covering, it'll be easier to afford glass on the roof, which I think is 
necessary because the neighborhood is so full of big trees, and getting 
tree pollen off glass is much easier than getting it off other types of 
greenhouse glazing.

The BC groups always put on a nice plant exhibit, and this one of course 
had early bulbs. Most were commonly grown sorts, but there were a lot of 
snowdrops, including some seldom seen in North America. I'm not in the 
ranks of card-carrying galanthophiles, but I now covet 'Primrose Warburg' 
and some variety with large green zones on the outer tepals. I'll try to 
mention this desire in the "barter wanted" section of my summer surplus list.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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