TOW--Bulbs for Pacific Northwest Gardens

Diane Whitehead
Wed, 22 Jan 2003 11:57:09 PST
By seed:

Allium cernuum - I have a couple of colours growing in my vegetable garden.  I like this onion as its leaves are green when it flowers, unlike so many alliums. It doesn't spread excessively, or maybe that's because I both eat the flowers and send the seeds to exchanges.

Allium schoenoprasum sibiricum - I have borders of giant chives around a couple of my vegetable beds.  They are pretty when they flower, in several shades of mauve from almost white to purple.  They used to seed all over, but since I started using the flowers in salads, this doesn't happen anymore.

Alstroemeria aurantiaca is one of those plants, like lily-of-the-valley, that is difficult to get started, but then goes on forever (goes on blooming and goes on spreading).  It spreads by seed, which explodes out of its pods, and by root.  It is a beautiful plant, but I managed to eliminate it after a couple of years' effort. I prefer Butterfly Hybrids which bloom all summer until frost.

Bluebells!!!!  put here under the common name as it has had so many name changes.  It's been a Scilla, an Endymion, and I think is now Hyacinthoides hispanica.  I like them, but work hard to keep them under control.  I should have planted them over next to the neighbour with all the dandelions.

Cyclamen coum and hederifolium seed a lot, but I don't mind. When ants drop seeds on a pathway, the plants are easy to move.  Visitors to the house, even Jehovah's Witnesses, often leave with a potted cyclamen in bloom, and a pot or two are my hostess gift when I visit someone.  On a hillside nearby, the whole bank along the road is blooming with coum right now.  I assume the seeds tumbled down from the garden above.  I've been growing other species from Cyclamen Society seed for about 5 years, too soon to tell how they will naturalize.

Muscari azureum in baby blue or white, has seeded itself, enough to make a show under the apple trees where it was planted about 30 years ago, but hasn't appeared elsewhere in the garden, so I think it is a perfect garden bulb.

Muscari armeniacum has spread and appears throughout the vegetable garden including the coldframes.  I guess I spread it via compost. I've been re-locating it to the roadside.

M. a. 'Blue Spike' was planted under an apple tree, and I am sure I only planted the one kind there, but they must have metamorphosed to a less-double kind as well.  I've put them here under ones that seed, but I haven't checked to see if they do form seeds.  They have spread, though they are still in the same area. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- By root:

Allium sativum - I've bought about a dozen different kinds of garlic which I tried to keep separate. I usually miss a few while digging, and somehow when I'm harvesting some of the bulblets at the top of the stalk fall off and bounce into flower beds, so I have garlic in a lot of places.  We like a lot of garlic, so it's not really a problem for us.

Anemone nemorosa, the ordinary wild kind, came in inadvertently when a friend gave me a rhododendron with the roots infilled with the stick-like rhizomes.  When I go to the university gardens, I can tell which rhododendrons were donated by the same friend.  I'm keeping it in reasonable control.  It makes a good cutflower, and I just rip up flower, leaf and root when I want a bouquet. The fancier forms don't rampage as much.  'Vestal', the double one with a tuft of short petals in the middle, seems to have shorter rhizomes than the wild one, and forms a dense mat with hundreds of flowers.

Convallaria takes a long time to get growing, but then can spread fairly quickly. I have it under a huge bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) next to the dandelion neighbour. I make sure it doesn't invade the rootballs of any rhododendrons.  I would never be without lily-of-the-valley, and give bouquets to everyone I know for Mother's Day.  Deer like eating it, but this doesn't seem to affect the colony much.  The several striped ones I grow don't increase as quickly, but I haven't had them nearly as long, so who knows what they'll do in the future?

Galanthus woronowii, with shiny green leaves like ikariae, increases rapidly, but the bulbs all stay in a burgeoning clump, rising up a bit out of the ground. All the surface ones can die if we get a bad winter, so I divide the clumps every few years.

Ornithogalum umbellatum has an incredible rate of increase.  Too bad they're not edible.  I planted a dozen under some apple trees.  They flowered every year. Then, I'm not sure why, I decided to dig some out, maybe to give to someone with a new garden. I couldn't believe it - I kept digging them out and there were still layers and layers of bulbs.  They hadn't spread sideways, so I guess they hadn't seeded.  Instead they had just made a zillion bulblets. I dug out enough to fill a 5 gallon bucket (23 litres), and I still have a few in cracks in the sidewalk where I dropped some tiny ones.

Oxalis oregana var smallii has beautiful big bright pink flowers. I'm putting it here because in moist gardens it does spread a lot.  Mine covers perhaps a square metre after about 25 years.  It is under a very tall hedge of Leylandii cypress.

Diane Whitehead  Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
maritime zone 8
cool mediterranean climate (dry summer, rainy winter - 68 cm annually)
sandy soil

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