Brodiaea, Calochortus, and Triteleia
Sun, 10 Nov 2002 09:19:06 PST
>From the last Robinett Bulb Catalog (1999) I ordered a number of western Allium, Brodiaea, Triteleia, and as an experiment one Calochortus.  Concerned about growing these dryland bulbs here in northeastern USA, I made a mildly sloped bed, of  a sandy mix ontop of our typical heavy, rocky clay.  Bulbs were planted so that they were in contact with the heavy clay, with free-draining sandy mix on top.  The bed is not intentionally watered in summer, but does get watered by an occasional errant sprinker and erratic summer downpours in our frequent thunderstorms.

The bulbs have flowered well in those few years, some prospering better than 
others, a few are dwindling as well.  The most gorgeous of all is Triteleia bridgesii, with immense umbels of purple, white-centered flared tubes in June and July on 16" tall stems.  The photo that I previously posted on my website 
doesn't give a good sense of the umbel size (over 10" across!, 25 cm), so I 
posted a new photo taken this past summer in which I'm holding the scape (both to steady the umbel in a stiff breeze, and to add scale).  The photo can be seen at


...another photo available at

Also successful, but much more modest in flower have been Brodiaea stellaris, 
purdyi, Triteleia ixioides, hyacinthina, and laxa.  The two Brodiaea species 
are tiny, almost inconspicuous, but provide a long season of purple stars July through August, on stems just a few inches above ground level.  This past spring Calochortus uniflorus was spreading with new sprouts, apparently stoloniferous, but something likes to eat the foliage, so I put PVC pipe fittings around the shoots as a protective collar. I did manage to see 3-4 blooms out of the dozen or more buds that were first there.  Accordingly to Jim Robinett, it is "perhaps the easiest of the Calochortus to grow".  I'm encouraged to possibly try a few more Calochortus species.

My garden is all the richer with these much too infrequently cultivated bulbs.

Mark McDonough        Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States    "New England"               USDA Zone 5
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