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Topics - janemcgary

General Discussion / Paeonia species
April 17, 2024, 10:31:25 AM
Paeonia species are starting to flower here in northwestern Oregon, and as usual I was looking around the web for information and help verifying their identity, as mine are all seed-grown. I came upon this excellent site: . People from all around the world post photos with brief text there. I was amazed to see an emerging cluster of Paeonia brownii (or P. californica) in a garden in Finland. I'm still trying to identify one that came up, probably from a forgotten seed that got moved to this garden in potting soil with another plant. I have Josef and Jarmila Halda's sumptuous book on the genus and will see what I can find there to match this plant with crimson flowers and sharply lobed, dark green leaves. Another spot to watch is a large colony of P. daurica seedlings, the offspring of P. daurica subsp. mlokosewitschii (I think that's the current concept of the yellow form), left to grow in hope of another real yellow, but so far mainly cream flushed pink. The yellow parent, from a Halda collection, is stronger in color than the wild plants I saw in the Caucasus. The common pink form of P. daurica grows nearby, and here and there around the garden, possibly planted by jays.
General Discussion / Private exchanges
February 25, 2024, 02:10:23 PM
I would like to offer a proposal for privately arranged exchanges via this forum. Individuals could post "want lists" in this topic for others to read. Those who have the desired species to spare could reply, offering their own want list of possible trade items, and the individuals could then email each other privately to arrange shipping. I suggest that the want list be limited to no more than ten species, with subsequent revised posts as wants are met. This would not be an official PBS activity, merely an exchange between individuals. Some of us rarely see anything on the BX that fits with our interests and growing facilities, but we may have extensive collections within which others may find long-sought species. Please reply to this post with your opinions on setting up this function on the Forum. Once we've discussed it, I'll be glad to post my own little want list and to peruse those of others for possible exchanges.
General Discussion / Colchicum candidissimum
January 06, 2024, 01:00:21 PM
Attached is a photo of plants grown from seed received from V. Pilous under the name Colchicum candidissimum. That name does not appear in the synonymy in the new Colchicum volume by Grey-Wilson, Leeds & Rolfe. The present Colchicum is clearly in the section formerly known as Merendera, and it has some affinity to Colchicum trigynum (M. t.). Its flowers are mostly white, some pink-flushed, and the three-part style is filiform and very slender. The anthers are versatile, yellow at first but opening to blackish. It is a small plant and as shown, the leaves are present at flowering. Do any of you know anything about this plant? It is a vigorous increaser and I'd like to share it, but don't want to send it out under an unverifiable name. I don't have access to any Soviet-era floras, which may be where "candidissimum" exists.Colchicum candidissimum 24-2.jpg
General Off-Topic / A taxonomic poem
November 02, 2023, 11:47:30 AM
Anne Carson's "Linnaeus Town" weaves the convention of a taxonomic key into a poem. Trace the path of thought to emotional response in this fascinating one-page work.
Some time ago I requested nominations for PBS offices. The only office that will definitely become vacant at the end of this year is President. I received a few suggestions, but no nominations and no applications to be considered. I wrote that I needed names by October 15, and it is almost  upon us.
The president is the chief manager of PBS, organizing Zoom meetings and votes of the board, making decisions, and consulting with all the other officers and managers. The Society cannot operate without this officer. Surely we have members who value what PBS does for them enough to take on this admittedly detail-oriented task.
Please write to me privately (do not reply to list) as soon as possible if you would like to be considered.
General Discussion / Identifying Colchicum
October 01, 2023, 12:39:10 PM
Finally this fall I have a useful way to confirm the identity of the many Colchicum species I've raised from seed over the years. "Colchicum: The complete guide," by Christopher Grey-Wilson, Rod Leeds, & Robert Rolfe, Royal Horticultural Society (2020), is a big, expensive volume. It may not be the last word on this still problematic genus, but it helps. The elaborate keys are easy to use; if you don't know the lexicon, there is a glossary in the back matter. Once you've spotted possibilities, you have to read the individual entries to see exactly how similar species are being distinguished. There are good color photos for most species, which give you a sense of the general habit of the plant. So far I've identified a stray one that got into the rock garden as C. baytopiorum, and one grown from seed as C. peloponnesiacum is almost certainly C. troodii. One that had lost its label when I lifted part of the bulb house this summer is definitely C. stevenii, which I knew I had somewhere. Some others seem to be true to name. It's not too hard to look at colchicums in flower because almost all the diagnostic parts are above ground.
Current Photographs / Colchicum feinbruniae
October 01, 2023, 12:19:35 PM
I'll try to post a photo of Colchicum feinbruniae, taken today. I got the seed from the Gothenburg Botanic Garden in 2008; this is mentioned in the recent Colchicum monograph as one of the few sites where this species is in cultivation.
PBS Members Affairs / Request for nominations
August 16, 2023, 04:46:53 PM
The process of nominating officers for the PBS executive board is now 
open to submissions from the general membership. Submit nominations to
committee chairperson Jane McGary <> by October
15, 2023. Here are the rules. (1) Both the nominator and the nominee
must be current (paid through 2023) members of the Pacific Bulb Society.
(2) The nomination must contain a statement by the nominee that he or
she is willing to serve in the office for two years, beginning January
1, 2024. (3) The nominator should include a brief statement explaining
why the nominee would be a good choice for this particular office.

The offices open are President, Vice President, Secretary, and
Treasurer. Some incumbents intend to run for another term, but all must
be voted on by the Board. Duties of each officer are covered in the PBS
Bylaws, which are now available on our website here: .

Thank you all for your cooperation!

I have been asked to form a small committee to nominate several new board members, including a president and vice president, to take over the offices in early 2024. I would like to include people from different parts of the USA and Europe. I would prefer to choose among those who have been PBS members for at least four years and who are active enough in the society's areas of interest to have formed fairly wide acquaintance with other members. Committee members may not nominate themselves, nor may they be current members of the PBS board. Please contact me privately at if you are interested in helping with this.
General Discussion / Don't give up on seeds
May 15, 2023, 01:54:00 PM
Since I have many bulbs in pots plunged in a sandy mixture, I usually add to the plunge material the soil from pots in which seeds have remained ungerminated for three years (more in the case of irises and colchicums). Between the pots rise some things that are unwanted (Tulipa ingens, well named 'huge') and some that are a wonderful unexpected treat. Today a tall green stem that arose between pots opened its four buds: the beautiful Leucocoryne vittata. I would not have expected it to survive the cold winters of the bulb house, though L. coquimbensis does. It is well adapted to the weather this week -- four or five days of record hot temperatures for May. The Calochortus are also handling it well.
General Discussion / Fritillaria liliacea
April 27, 2023, 12:33:18 PM
Some years ago I shared bulbs of Fritillaria liliacea, grown from wild-collected seed, with Mark Akimoff of Illahe Rare Bulbs. I lost my plants in a move and Mark gave me some back. They're in flower now and have a purplish flush at the base of the tepals, whereas my original plants had more typical green nectaries and greenish flush. According to Jepson, the nectaries vary from green to purplish. Is it possible they react to temperature? Or should I worry about hybridization? I came up with F. liliacea x F. agrestis in the old collection, per Diana Chapman. I think all these F. biflora types probably cross readily, as witness the vigorous, fertile series of F. biflora x F. purdyi that also originated in my old place and have been widely distributed. Biflora is almost unkillable, and purdyi is all too killable.
General Discussion / Fertilizer and temperature
March 05, 2023, 04:41:04 PM
I usually apply soluble fertilizer to plants in my unheated bulb house now. However, we are having an unusually cold late winter: near freezing every night, and in the 40s F daytime. Many plants are in active growth, if a bit later than usual. Should I apply fertilizer now, or wait until the daytime temperatures are a bit higher? I don't use pelleted fertilizer on the container plants but have some for the garden which is designed to release slowly at cool temperatures, unlike Osmocote-type slow-release fertilizers which need higher soil temperatures than is typical in the Pacific Northwest.
General Discussion / Juno Iris propagation
January 23, 2023, 12:01:42 PM
Irises of the Scorpiris ("Juno") section have a bulb with thick roots attached at the base. Writers caution that the roots must not be detached from the bulb, but when lifting a crowded clump it's difficult to avoid that. Yesterday I found, in the back of the potting bench, a pot of such detached bulbs (lifted in August) that I had set aside (without soil), planning to pot them, and forgot about them. Some moisture had reached them in the leaky shed, and I was surprised to see that about half of them were producing live roots. I potted them up and hope to have a good new planting of Iris warleyensis, having grown the parent plant from a Josef Halda collection in the mid-1990s. So don't despair if your Juno bulbs lose their roots!
General Discussion / Cleaning over spring bulbs
January 21, 2023, 06:15:57 PM
When the snowdrops and other early bulbs emerge, they may still have winter debris over them. A wonderful tool for cleaning this up is the Bulldog Co. rubber-tined rake. I bought one at least 25 years ago and it's just beginning to deteriorate, so I searched for a replacement and found it on Pottery Barn's website. There are two models, and I prefer the narrow one, "Merlin", for maneuvering among plantings. The strong, flexible rubber tines are as gentle as fingers and will pull fallen leaves off the smallest emerging buds and leaves without damage, provided you use the rake with a quick, light stroke. Highly recommended garden tool.
Mystery Bulbs / Romulea from Libya
January 02, 2023, 11:30:12 AM
A query came via the PBS website from a botanist working on a flora of Libya, to identify a Romulea sp. found there. He has now sent me a set of excellent photos, but I can't seem to copy and paste them individually even within my system, so I can't post one here. There is one Romulea reported from Libya, R. cyrenaica. These photos show a member of the R. bulbocodium group, but with very striking dark purple and bright yellow stripes on the reverse of the tepals. If someone can comment, I will forward the whole message to you, with the 6 .jpg attachments.
General Discussion / Survival of cultivars
December 30, 2022, 04:56:23 PM
A deep dive into back issues of alpine gardening journals led me to notice many award-winning named cultivars of various bulb genera, some of which I had never seen in books, gardens, or catalogs. Most were of UK origin. Mainly those now grown in North America seem to be the ones that were propagated commercially. I wonder how many of the others are still extant in the UK and/or Europe? Do any of you preserve little-known cultivars of, say, Crocus? (I know you preserve those of Galanthus!) What are your hidden treasures? I promise not to write asking for them.
General Discussion / Proposed reference tool
December 19, 2022, 05:32:24 PM
I'm sorting a huge collection of alpine/rock gardening journals going back as far as the late 1930s. I can't bring myself to throw them in the recycling bin; they've been through too many great gardeners' libraries. Nowadays, the North American Rock Garden Society, the Alpine Garden Society, and the Scottish Rock Garden Club have made their back volumes available in digital form. This would include indexes. However, I wonder if it would be useful for me to make a bibliography (not annotated), by genera, of useful geophyte articles from these journals, so enthusiasts could go quickly to the online pages. It would be a winter project (we all need them), and I'd learn plenty. What do you think? I'm a very experienced bibliographer -- worked on Oxford UP's online reference bibliographies for years.
General Discussion / Hybridizing in large collections
October 10, 2022, 04:27:28 PM
I'm busy packeting seeds for the SX. One donor offers many different species in a few South African genera. It made me wonder how likely it is that coming from such a large collection, the seed lots will produce hybrids. I know my Narcissus have hybridized over the  years. I don't grow South African bulbs, since I have no heated facility. If you've grown SX seeds, have you seen many likely hybrids among the resulting plants?
General Plants and Gardening / Plant libraries
September 19, 2022, 11:14:50 AM
There comes a time when many of us realize we have shelves of botanical and horticultural books and journals that we no longer use. I just filled 8 shopping bags with journals to give away, and still have AGS and SRGC journals going back to the late 1950s (no, I wasn't a member then!), too technical to appeal to local gardeners. A couple of years ago I offered books to PBS members and got rid of quite a few, but there are more in surplus. Now another PBS member is offering a choice selection, including many excellent bulb books, to our NARGS chapter. Do any of you have any good ideas how to keep these books out of the recycling bins? A PBS LX (literature exchange)?
After almost 40 years of bulbs in August, I do not love this. Out as early as I can, sifting sand and sorting bulbs until the heat is too much, pulling out the gravestones -- the labels put in ten years ago, when I made this raised bed -- is about 80% depressing. The other 20% is finding very good things still alive, and they are going into plunged pots so I don't risk losing track of them. I have big baskets of Spanish Narcissus and California themids, which I will try to palm off on innocent persons; they're through choking out everything but the Calochortus and Tulipa, which get down below them. My goal is half the "directly planted" half of the bulb house, a space 8x20 feet; the other half, which is mostly free of narcissus and themids, gets done next year if I survive. I just turned 75, and I would hate gardening a lot less if I could hire help. The problem is not the cost, but the fact that reliable, skilled (or teachable) garden assistants do not exist in this area. We have "landscapers" (guys with a pickup and some power tools) and "garden designers" (people who've read some books about it), but not the legendary "gardeners." Thanks for listening....