Blue bulbs in bloom mid February

Jane McGary
Wed, 12 Feb 2014 11:13:11 PST
Some of the blue- or purple-flowered bulbs Gastil lists can't be 
grown here in northwestern Oregon, or flower a bit later, but we may 
succeed with some that don't do as well in her coastal southern 
California location. Those showing blue color here today (two days 
after the temperature finally rose above freezing for the first time 
in a week):

Crocus baytopiorum, the truest blue in that genus
Hyacinthella atchleyi and a couple of other Hyacinthella species
Puschkinia libanotica, in the open garden under a bare tree, among 
Cyclamen coum
Scilla sibirica subsp. taurica, a very strong blue
Iris histrio from a wild seed collection
Iris 'Halkis', a reticulata; not sure if it is a hybrid or a pure 
species selection

In the purple range it is mostly irises, such as Iris stenophylla 
(both subspecies now open) and many of the Reticulata section, and of 
course Crocus species. Gastil also mentioned Dichelostemma capitatum, 
a western American native that I wish were better known; it has 
umbels of light purple flowers with a strong purple base on dark 
stems, making a group of plants in flower (they are the earliest of 
the Themidaceae) a striking garden accent, and it's pretty cold-hardy.

I don't have a Pantone book but it is a good idea if you have access 
to one, to compare flower colors with it. There is also an older set 
of standard color names (not numbers) used by the Dutch bulb industry 
in particular; you may see them in descriptions of flowers in 
European and British publications. What one includes as "blue" is 
rather subjective. I don't like using it where "purple" or "violet" 
or their many quasi-synonyms seem better. Catalog writers, however, 
will call almost anything "blue," and Photoshop the illustration to 
support their falsehood.

The snowdrops have raised their heads again now that the snow has 
melted, as have the early Narcissus, but a few plants that suffered 
in our December deep freeze have given up in the face of the February 
iteration. Some of the latter, however, may return next year if their 
bulbs (tubers, corms) are deep enough. The seedlings, including 
almost 30 Tulipa species, show little damage despite my eventually 
inadequate attempts at keeping them from freezing; even some 
Fritillaria species that were just germinating appear all right.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

At 06:49 PM 2/11/2014, you wrote:
>Here are some blue and purple flowering bulbs now open in my garden. 
>Several of these were planted a couple months later than normal and 
>all were delayed in receiving their first fall watering.
>Romulea linarsii - just opened the first sunny day in awhile
>Crocus minimus - one last bloom just finishing
>Scilla peruviana - just a few early ones starting to open
>Ixia rapunculoides - peak bloom in the plunge bed but still in bud 
>in an adjacent raised bed
>Gladiolus caeruleus - past peak bloom, with one stalk still blooming 
>in the sand plunge
>Tristagma uniflorum (syn. Ipheion uniflorum) - just beginning, 
>started opening a couple weeks ago
>Iris reticulata - only one of the five varieties is open
>Freesia laxa - at peak bloom now, with the first early flowers 
>already forming seed pods
>Two non-geophyte annuals in this set of photos I use as reference 
>blue colors: Baby blue eyes and Cornflower.
>The color chart included in each photo is a way of precisely 
>comparing blue hues.
>There are also just a few Muscari which opened after the day I took 
>those photos.
>The Dichelostemma capitatum are in bud.
>And a Moraea polystachya bud was tight this morning but I expect 
>tomorrow it will open.
>- Gastil
>Santa Barbara, California

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