Calochortus notes

Jane McGary
Wed, 26 Jun 2013 10:48:43 PDT
Nhu wrote,
>I find that
>Calochortus are very difficult to grow in Berkeley. Our winters are
>just a bit too cold (-2 to -3C) for them and they get too wet. The
>combination of cold and wet causes a lot of fungal disease. Rotting of
>the leaves typically slow down the bulb's health and eventually even
>the bulbs themselves rot away.

I'm sure he's right that the combination of wet and cold is the 
culprit, rather than just cold, since I have long grown many species 
in far colder conditions than occur in Berkeley (where I've also 
lived). Foliage of these and many other bulbs can recover from a lot 
of freezing as long as the leaves aren't wet when they freeze. That 
said, though, I now have a lot of Californian and Mediterranean 
bulbs, though not Calochortus, growing in the open and experiencing 
wet freezing without dying of it. Also Nhu's switching to a pumice 
planting mix should be a big help, though it must be expensive in an 
area without the pumice quarries we enjoy here in Oregon.

>they all eventually dwindled
>and rotted away, except for a few very tough ones like C. catalinae
>and C. venustus.

I also found that Calochortus venustus is a great grower even far 
from its home, and Calochortus catalinae surprised me as well. I 
direct sowed a lot of C. venustus seed last year and noticed 
considerable germination in a sand and gravel berm, so am curious to 
see if they develop over the years. I try to catch all the seed for 
exchanges, but inevitably a lot of it falls in the bulb house beds 
and seedlings came up like grass this winter. I've just finished 
tagging all the Calochortus stems so I can identify the plants when 
the seeds are ready; I mark the color forms of C. venustus, but of 
course they are crossing and "red" won't necessarily produce all reds.

The latest subspecies of Calochortus clavatus, subsp. clavatus, is 
opening its huge, well-marked flowers now. Calochortus howellii is in 
full bloom, as is Calochortus obispoensis, and yesterday I saw the 
first flower open on Calochortus plummerae. Seed has ripened on the 
earliest species already; some of them have pendent capsules and it's 
tricky to catch them just before they open, so I leave the envelopes 
right by the plants to remind me to look every day. The most 
productive so far has been Calochortus monophyllus. Cool weather 
seems to be delaying seed ripening on some plants, especially 
Fritillaria species.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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