When to start watering/blooming now

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Sat, 19 Oct 2013 08:39:37 PDT
Many years ago on this list we had a discussion about when to start 
watering winter growing bulbs. In California it usually doesn't start 
to rain as early as it does in other Mediterranean areas and often 
the fall months are warm and sunny. For those of us who live in 
coastal climates these days may be even warmer than in summer when we 
often have wind or fog. It seemed reasonable to wait to start 
watering the native bulbs until it started to rain, but what about 
those from other countries where it would have rained earlier in the 
season. If they started into growth early, how would they do if it 
got really warm. I remember Gordon Summerfield from South Africa 
saying if it hadn't rained by mid October give your pots a good soaking.

Since I have sometimes traveled to experience spring in the southern 
hemisphere or Europe in late summer, early fall those years I waited 
to water until we got back. Early on however I learned if I didn't 
start watering my Oxalis collection in August, I'd wouldn't have as 
good a bloom experience from all the fall bloomers. This year I was 
home and we had early rainfall and I watered early. I've had one of 
the nicest fall blooming seasons (except for Amaryllis belladonna and 
I really think it's too shady for it) ever. My fall blooming Oxalis 
have been spectacular (taking me back to being hooked on these from 
Diana Chapman's description of them being dazzling.) Some pots have 
been covered in flowers for months now: several kinds of Oxalis 
flava, several forms of Oxalis hirta, Oxalis depressa, Oxalis 
luteola, Oxalis bowiei, Oxalis livida, Oxalis massoniana,  Oxalis 
melanosticta 'Ken Aslet', Oxalis callosa, Oxalis commutata, Oxalis 
engleriana, Oxalis fabifolia, Oxalis imbricata, several forms of 
Oxalis purpurea, Oxalis pardalis, Oxalis polyphylla var. heptaphylla, 
Oxalis versicolor, and Oxalis zeekoevleyensis. These are all pictured 
on the wiki. The South American Oxalis perdicaria that I love so much 
because the flowers are such a cheerful yellow is also in bloom and 
for the first time ever I have blooms on Oxalis pulchella, a gift 
from Ron Vanderhoff and drum roll, Oxalis palmifrons. The latter 
species is a shy bloomer and when Diana Chapman was kind enough to 
invite Pacific Bulb Society members to spend a weekend with her, she 
caused a lot of excitement when she put a flower on from another 
blooming species on O. palmifrons and people thought they were 
finally seeing it in bloom. Now I know it is a fall bloomer.

Several other genera are bringing me happiness. I have a lot of 
Cyclamen in bloom and leaves of many other species appearing in pots 
and in the ground. I thank Bill Dijk for encouraging me to grow this 
genus which I just love and looks like it will keep going even when I 
get to the point that pots are too hard to manage. The fall blooming 
Nerines started early and have been continuing. Since I started 
watering the Nerine sarniensis cultivars in summer and leave them in 
the greenhouse year round so they aren't overwhelmed by our humid 
winters and have extra warmth, most of my pots usually send up at 
least one spike and sometimes more. Nerine angustifolia, Nerine 
humilis, Nerine masoniorum, and Nerine platypetala are all blooming 
as well as some hybrids. There is even what I assume is a hybrid I 
grew from seed taken from N. bowdenii (the bees are busy in the fall) 
that grows on its own terms, usually going dormant only for a few 
months in summer and then when I water it producing leaves and just 
now flowers.

The fall blooming Crocus have been going strong. Crocus goulimyi does 
really well for me and is long blooming. Others in bloom at the 
moment are Crocus asumaniae, C. cartwrightianus, C. niveus, C. pulchellus.

There are a couple of fall blooming white fragrant Freesias in bloom, 
including one that only once bloomed before.

Earlier several South African Gladiolus bloomed and I was thrilled to 
have a first bloom from Haemanthus coccineus and Brunsvigia 
bosmaniae. Both were grown from seed and I had given up on them. I 
tried them in the ground (now gone) and these were in pots. 
Hyacinthoides lingulata is finishing and I've had a few Narcissus 
bulbocodium already bloom. They start into growth early.

Except for my native California species and a few others, most of the 
winter growers are well up or appearing. So for me I think it is 
probably wise to water early so that fall bloomers have a chance to 
grow big enough and bloom before the weather gets cold and wet. This 
might not hold true for areas of California with warmer temperatures. 
But obviously my garden at the moment is quite different from 
Gastil's. The Oxalis flowers don't open unless it is warm and not 
windy, so having them in bloom during those months of the year when 
we have warm sunny weather makes sense. Because of the early rainfall 
(we've had two good rains so far), I've found most of my natives are 
already growing as well when I try to repot so it may be that 
repotting is done for the season except for my tulips that will be 
going into the refrigerator soon.

Mary Sue

Mary Sue Ittner
California's North Coast
Wet mild winters with occasional frost
Dry mild summers  

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