Dependable garden bulbs
Sat, 03 May 2008 07:25:23 PDT
I'm Jim Jones, a new respondent living in the Boston, MA area.  Winter temperatures can reach -12oF, but -4o is more typical.  Last winter never went below 2o, with abundant snow cover, and the garden has never been better.

My geophytes include most of the standard ones for this area: Eranthis, Galanthus, Crocus (mostly tommasinianus),Colchicum, Erythronium, etc.  Erythroniums are E. dens-canis, nicely seeding about, E. americanum as something of a weed, E. 'Pagoda', teaming up right now with Fritillaria pallidiflora, and E. umbillicatum, ever so tentatively though I've had for quite a few years. Other frits are F. camtschatcensis in a moist spot, and F. acmopetala, which really has a mind of its own, finally deigning to flourish in one particular spot.  I use a systemic insecticide to control lily beetle on frits and lilies.

My most interesting Lily is L. formosanum, which started out as v. pricei, a dwarf, until one year it surged to full size though fortunately remaining just as hardy.

For my year of living dangerously I tried a number of Ornithogalums.  I was not burnt!  In fact some of them are quite worthwhile, the best being O. collinum (O. tenuiflorum), a low-growing plant with white flowers in April that mixes well with Corydalis solida.  Also low, white, and April-blooming is O. lanceolatum, but the flowers are too small to make an impact unless you know where to look.  I noted with deep interest the article in the AGS Bulletin that said lanceolatum likes some moisture in the soil, a far cry from the rock garden setting where I've been trying it.  O. pyrenaicum breaks the mold, being a tall, tan-flowered June bloomer.  Tan!  Indeed, it's easy to overlook but pleasantly weird when you spot it.  On the other hand, I loathe O. nutans.

I have an assortment of the standard size Narcissus hybrids, N. 'Sundisc' being particularly noteworthy.  I'm more interested though in the smaller ones: in descending order, N. 'Wee Bee', abundant yellow trumpets in early April, very vigorous, very appealing; N. asturiensis, a 5 inch version of the above, not really vigorous here; and my all-time favorite, the 4 inch N. rupicola, bearing up-facing yellow cups in late April/early May.  It clumps up and self-sows, but never enough.

I have a few Alliums: A. thunbergii, with at last report a white one from seed; lots of A. flavum, though ssp. tauricum is slow to get going; A. zebdanense with white flowers right now; A. tuberosum, which I love for the bees but have to keep on top of; too much A. cernuum; A. 'Constellation' and its parent A. nutans.  I have a variegated form of the last but it's proving quite fickle, so  much so that I haven't been able to pin down a plant to give to Mark McDonough.  The current flat of promising-looking seedlings may change that.

Noteworthy Trilliums are the super-cute T. pusillum and, to my surprise, a T. chloropetalum v. giganteum (10 years from seed to bloom) that is thriving in this alien climate.

Cyclamen has been really touch and go, except for a single C. coum, probably ssp caucasicum, that has shrugged off the worst winters in the open garden and merrily blooms through the snow.  C. hederifolium survives where it can hug the south-facing foundation, along with Oxalis rubra and Bletilla striata.

Another orchid is Dactylorhiza praetermissa, that came through this last winter.  It's being grown in an artificially moistened bed.

And back to Corydalis solida.  I've had the purplish form for many years, and it dearly loves it here, even invading the lawn (fine by me).  More recently I've gotten the Penga strain, fabulous, and somehow, in no time at all, its influence is showing up in the far reaches of the garden as one brightly colored seedling after another shows up.  A cloud on the horizon: something snipped off the flowers in the densest stand this spring.  A silver lining: I saw one of my cats munching on a bunny yesterday.

Odds and ends: Crocosmia (as Curtonus) paniculata that has proven hardy where the more common species and hybrids weren't.  It took me a while though to realize it prefers a moistish soil.  And as long as we're in South Africa: Agapanthus campanulatus.  This is one of the deciduous ones; it has been outside for two years (and yes, shoots are appearing even as I write) and bloomed last July.  Seed was set, germinated, and is growing on, giving strong hope for its future.

Jim Jones


More information about the pbs mailing list