Mariposa season

Jane McGary
Thu, 09 Jun 2011 17:59:33 PDT
In the bulb house as well as in nature, we enjoy another burst of 
bloom as the Calochortus species -- not just the Mariposa section, 
but others as well -- open their long-lasting flowers.

I wasn't sure how my collection of Calochortus would react to being 
lifted last July, stored in paper bags in a basement for 6 weeks, and 
then planted in raised beds in my wire-mesh-sided, solid-roofed bulb 
house. The results so far are wonderful. Many species that had been 
struggling to flower in the rabbit-infested bulb frames in my former 
home have produced tall flowering stems with many buds. In flower 
right now are Cc. albus, amabilis, monophyllus, coeruleus, uniflorus, 
venustus, bruneaunis, catalinae, invenustus, and kennedyi. C. tolmiei 
and C. elegans are already through, and a number of others are in 
bud. I'm hoping that now that these deep-growing plants have a free 
root run, they will gain in strength. I'm not hand-pollinating them 
this year to preserve their vigor after the move, but will do so next 
year. (Hybrids do occur in the Mariposa section.) All of these plants 
were originally grown from seed, mostly from either Ron Ratko or the 
Robinetts, and some from the Archibalds, and a few I collected myself.

Growing Calochortus from seed is pretty easy, and the seed remains 
viable for a long time (even more than 10 years!) in dry storage. If 
you can keep your bulbs from severe winter cold (below 10 F) and 
fairly dry in summer, and give them a deep root run, you should 
certainly try some. Most of them will flower in 4 to 7 years from sowing.

If you have mature plants, be sure to check for the stem bulbils that 
many species produce. This is another good way to increase them. 
These bulbils may be produced either above or below the soil surface.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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