first signs of autumn and what's blooming now

Jane McGary
Thu, 05 Sep 2013 16:01:40 PDT
Here in Portland, Oregon, a little light rain has fallen in the past 
few days, but another hot, dry period is forecast for next week, so 
I'm not giving the summer-dry bulbs a drink quite yet. My rule is 
that they should never be hot and wet at the same time. Before 
they're ready to be soaked, I'm going to sprinkle some dry aged cow 
manure over the gravel top-dressing so the water can wash it in a bit.

The best show today is provided by Cyclamen graecum, now settled for 
one year in its raised bed built up with tufa (calcium carbonate 
rock). Cyclamen hederifolium, a basic garden subject in this area, is 
also in bloom here and there, especially in the impoverished soil 
under large Douglas firs. Prospero autumnalis is flowering in the 
rock garden (I have two collections, one much bluer than the other) 
along with several Colchicum species and, of course, the lovely 
little weed Acis autumnalis. Colchicum x agrippinum is attractive in 
border and turf; fortunately the grass is still too dormant to need 
mowing, since I don't "do lawns."

In the bulb house only a dozen or so Colchicum species are in flower, 
whether on the moist side or the dry side. They don't need moisture 
to trigger blooming.

Soon to open are Scilla obtusifolia and Scilla intermedia, probably 
now called Barnardia; these may be conspecific and certainly look as 
if they should be. Scilla, or Barnardia, japonica (syn. S. 
scilloides) has just finished in the garden. The latter plant is 
widely grown under the misnomer Scilla numidica, which probably 
happened when somebody sent seed to an exchange under the fond hope 
that he was growing the North African plant. Another PBS member has 
asked me for information on distinguishing them (they are 
similar-looking but at least one botanist has written that they 
should be in different genera, now that Scilla has been split up), 
but although Barnardia numidica (Scilla numidica) has a very wide 
range in nature, I can't find a technical description of it online, 
except probably on the loathed Springerlink. I'm not intent enough on 
this problem to drive to the college library to access the latter.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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