Long-flowering bulbs

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Sun, 06 Apr 2014 11:09:07 PDT
One reason why individual flowers remain in good condition for a long 
time is that they are not being pollinated. As soon as fertilization 
takes place, there is no need to attract more pollinators and the 
flower's showy petals often wilt and dry out. I also notice that the 
earliest-flowering Narcissus species here, such as Narcissus 
cantabricus and Narcissus romieuxii, are very persistent this way, 
but the later members of the same (Bulbocodium) section wither 
sooner. I don't have the early ones in the open garden.

Continuous bloom with repeated production of newly opening flowers is 
probably a characteristic of certain species that have evolved where 
the mechanism of pollination is available over a long period but not 
reliable in all years. Annuals grown in gardens have been selected 
for this characteristic. It is also well known that sterile 
selections have longer-lived flowers, whether the sterility results 
from hybridization or from the absence of reproductive structures as 
in some double-flowered plants. You can see this especially in 
Paeonia, where the single-flowered true species have short-lived 
flowers. (Mine are all available to pollinators, so I don't know if 
non-fertilization would induce the flowers to "last" longer.)

One way to get a longer season of bloom is to grow plants from 
different populations of a species. It is curious to see how 
seedlings from one place may flower several weeks before those from 
another. It is also annoying if you have only one clone from one of 
the populations and would like to get seed from it.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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