Bulbs for Mediterranean Gardens--TOW

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Thu, 20 Mar 2003 22:17:18 PST
Dear All,

My garden is located in coastal Mendocino County, California. I live at 
about 840 feet (256 meters) with a distant view of the Pacific Ocean. My 
climate is a Mediterranean one with rain starting in the fall, building in 
the winter and tapering off in spring. Summers are completely dry. 
Temperatures in winter occasionally get below freezing, but not usually 
much below. Average rainfall is 64 inches (about 1625 mm) but in El Nino 
years it has been much higher. Summer temperatures are moderate as well, 
with only occasional hot days in a row almost always followed by coastal 
fog that cools things off. Evenings are cool. It can be very windy, 
especially in spring and summer, which makes our part of the coast less 
foggy than areas north or south.

I grow bulbs in containers, in raised beds (that I have created just for 
bulbs) that I don't water in summer, and in the ground. For the purpose of 
this subject I'll just discuss the bulbs that are growing directly in the 
ground and blooming reliably. There are plants in the raised beds that are 
thriving too and some of those could probably be successful in the ground. 
Plants go in the ground if I think they will do better there, if I have 
extras I want to test, and if they are not blooming anyway. Some in the 
latter category then bloom and others are never seen again. We are fenced 
from the deer and don't have gophers, but we do have moles and other 
critters that dig holes. The squirrels seem fixated on the pine cones in 
the pine trees, but some day they may figure out that nirvana is awaiting 
them and I'll be in trouble. We water occasionally in summer, but the tree 
roots soak that up and when you dig down in the soil it is completely dry.

Alphabetically I have Amaryllis belladonna (at least a few of them bloom 
every year, but not all), Aristea ecklonii (I was sure it would need more 
water and would reseed too much, but perhaps because of the low amount of 
summer water it hasn't), Arthropodium cirrahatum, Babianas (some are 
hybrids, but B. rubrocyanea and B. villosa are doing well and I am sure 
some other species too), Brodiaea (californica, elegans, 
purdyi--interestingly I haven't had luck with B. terrestris when I have 
planted it out and it grows where I live), Calochortus (most of my 
experiments with this in the ground have not been successful, but the last 
two years C. vestae has bloomed), Cardamine californica, Chasmanthe 
(aethiopica has to be watched for weediness, other ones I have tried 
increase rapidly, but don't bloom), Chlorogalum pomeridianum, 
Clintonia  andrewsiana, Crocus (I've planted a lot of these and many are 
gone, but C. imperati is better each year and I have chrysanthus hybrids 
and vernus), Cyrtanthus brachyscaphus (not as happy as in a container, but 
is blooming each year), Dichelostemma (capitatum, multiflorum, ida-maia), 
Dierama pulcherrimum (should need more summer water and not like wet 
winters, but does fine), Erythronium multiscapoideum (I've only had this a 
couple of years from Diana, but it has bloomed since I had it), Ferraria 
uncinata (was a huge thug in a raised bed, but better in the ground), 
Freesia (alba is very invasive here, but long blooming and fragrant and 
laxa is less weedy but blooms and would probably like more summer water), 
Geissorhiza inaequalis (this is appearing everywhere), Gladiolus 
(carmineus, carneus, dalenii, tristis, undulatus--but dalenii is not doing 
as well as in Jana's garden where it gets summer water--carmineus is my 
favorite), Homerias (I know they are Moraeas, but it is easier to list this 
way-ochroleuca, flaccida, collina, pendula, and hybrids of the same all 
over and long blooming), Hyacinthoides hispanica, Ipheion uniflorum 
(weedy), Iris (douglasiana, Pacific Coast hybrids, innominata, japonica, 
unguicularis), Ixia (hybrids, dubia, flexuosa, rapunculoides, others 
dwindled away), Lachenalia mutabilis (I had a number of others in raised 
beds that were fine until they got sick), Leucojum aestivum (long blooming 
and very satisfactory), Lilium martimum, Moraea (aristata, bellendenii, 
gigandra, vegeta), Nerine (flexuosa x undulata, pudica), Orthrosanthus 
chimboracensis, Oxalis purpurea (if this doesn't seed how is it that it can 
appear everywhere-it only blooms with good sun), Scilla peruviana (is 
blooming really well this year, but not every year, but I'll include it 
because it looks so nice right now), Sisyrinchium bellum (this goes dormant 
for me in the summer but always comes back), Sparaxis (hybrids, elegans, 
bloom well even when they were virused), Spiloxene capensis, Triteleia 
(hyacinthina, ixioides, laxa), Tritonia (crocata, deusta, lineata--the 
latter is strange since it is from a summer rainfall area), Tulbaghia 
(simmleri--never increased or set seed alas, but blooms once or twice a 
year and violacea), Veltheimia bracteata, Watsonia (humilis and marginata), 
and Zigadenus fremontii.

This is the Calochortus that I've gotten to grow in the ground (one that 
likes rain.)

A few of these I've already managed to get added to the Wiki.
Freesia alba in mass and close-up

I've been adding pictures of all the Moraeas in bloom right now to the 
Moraea page as my husband photographs them and I downsize them (M. 
atropunctata, aristata, vegeta, loubseri, bipartita, tripetala are all in 
bloom right now, but some are in raised beds not the ground). The Homerias 
are just starting so pictures of those will be added lately. I think Bob is 
taking some gorgeous pictures so am including the whole page and not just 
the ones I mentioned.

I grow four different varieties of Cardamine californica which is one of my 
earliest spring flowering native wild flowers. It is in the brassicaceae 
family but has little tubers. One variety I grow has attractively marked 
leaves so I think of it as my California cyclamen although the flowers 
aren't as nice. I'm having better luck with Cyclamen in containers than in 
the ground. The Cardamine is really hard to photograph since it grows in 
the shade for one thing and the flower is not clear here but you can get 
the idea of how attractive the leaves are. It is spreading nicely under 
some Redwoods and growing with Viola sempervirens.

So the bulbs in my garden are mostly native or South African, with a few 
others thrown in that have worked. As I keep experimenting I'll probably 
find others that can survive. It's always a gamble when you live where 
there is so much rain and are passionate about flowers that don't bloom for 
very long. Since I grow so many things I am bound to get some of them to 
bloom on those sunny days between storms.

Mary Sue

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