Bulbs for Texas

Boyce Tankersley btankers@chicagobotanic.org
Thu, 12 Jun 2003 06:54:41 PDT
Hi All:

I no longer live and garden in Texas, but I grew up there during the 50's and 60's and returned for graduate school and work during the 80's.

While in Fort Worth, the best 'doers' of the Tulips were Kingsblood (red), Georgette (peach muliflowered) and Peach Blossum (double pink). Cannas grew like weeds and were relatively free of pests and diseases. Pot lilies like Enchantment were reliable perennials. Hippeastrum hybrids, if planted deeply, came back and flowered every spring. Narcissus 'Unsurpassable', a yellow large trumpet were the most frequently planted in quantity, but slowly declined over time. Muscari held on and Crocus declined, usually fairly rapidly. Lycoris radiata grew and flowered well, I think we planted the sterile clone. Rhizomatous iris were 'easy keepers', the bulbous types struggled. Gladiolus were perennials.

During one of the few weekends that weren't spent on graduate studies at TAMU, friends and I discovered a Hymenocallis in very sandy soils just above the flood plain of the Trinity River. I think it was H. galvestoniensis. Bulbs in the cultivated gardens around Brian/College Station suffered from the high salts in the local water supply. Regardless, Lycoris radiata was absolutely magnificent around the older homes.

On Galveston Island, Canna's grew like weeds and the leaves were seriously disfigured by the larvae of a moth. Hymenocallis caribaea were to be found in the thousands around the older buildings on the University of Texas Medical Branch campus. Crinum's and Crinum hybrids dotted the campus gardens. Heliconias, bananas, Hedychium, Costus and other Zingiberaceae relatives were luxurient, until the 2 weeks of winter arrived (they turned to black mush overnight). I don't recall finding any native bulbs on our excursions into the local salt marshes or sand dune areas. The only Tulip to reliably give a good 'show' on Galveston was Kingsblood. Typically if flowered at Valentines Day and the campus displays would be ravaged by 'want-to-be-docs' trying to impress their true loves on a student's budget.

Growing up near San Angelo, I can only recall one native geophyte, Zephranthes drummondii. Nicely fragrant and found, if memory serves me, primarily in crevasses in limestone.

The heat and length of the Texas summers were the doom of many of the bulbs traditionally supplied from Holland (not to discount the ability of summer floods to rot them to oblivion). When I left, the heirloom bulb boom was in infancy, and from reading the posts of the Texas members I am glad to see the re-introduction of some well adapted 'easy keepers'. There were a number of pests of bulbs, perhaps the most visibly destructive were the Armadillos. They loved bulbs, corms and tubers.

Since leaving Texas, I've learned more about the wealth of bulbs just south of the border and hope that they will also make their way into Texas landscapes. Of course, the posts from Argentina suggest exciting possibilities for the Texas climate as well.

Boyce Tankersley

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