fall planting and storage

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Fri, 09 Nov 2012 16:46:03 PST
Regarding the question of whether it matters whether one plants 
Dichelostemma and other Themidaceae (Brodiaea, etc.) right side up, I 
think it matters if the corms are large, but not if they are little 
offsets or seedling bulbs. These plants are adapted to coexisting 
with burrowing and digging predators, such as gophers and bears (and 
Native American humans, traditionally), so the little offsets would 
get distributed at random after the large ones are consumed. Not all 
members of this group make very numerous offsets in my experience, 
but with some you will find a dozen or more tightly grouped around 
the large flowering-size corm.

Because most of them have tall, bare stems and lax basal leaves, they 
look best in the garden growing among low shrubs (my choice here) or 
tall perennials and grasses, especially if you want seed, in which 
case you have to leave the stems up for a while (some will ripen seed 
on stems detached from the corm, though). Spacing them just depends 
on the visual effect you want. CLose groups, which they tolerate 
well, might look best in a garden with linear, rather abstract 
design, while widely spaced plants would look more naturalistic.

Incidentally all these themids are excellent cut flowers. The 
peculiar twining member of the group, DIchelostemma volubile, is 
particularly well suited to modernistic arrangements.

We see an increasing selection of themids in mass-market bulb 
catalogs, where once there was only one cultivar of Triteleia laxa. 
(The recently introduced Triteleia laxa 'Rudy' is a very pretty one 
with striking contrast between the pale tepals and deep violet median 
stripes.) The offerings are frequently misnamed, but all are worth 
growing. So far I have found almost all of them, even Bloomeria 
crocea, hardy outdoors in northwestern Oregon down to at least the 
mid-teens Fahrenheit.

Back to the right-side-up question, Fritillaria bulbs should always 
be planted right side up, except for the tiny "rice grains," which 
can be sown like seeds. If you grow some of the California ones that 
start out as long vertical single scales, you will see a little 
"hook" or barb at the bottom end.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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