Bulbs for Mediterranean Gardens-RIP

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Mon, 24 Mar 2003 07:23:36 PST
Dear All,

I really liked it when Diane wrote about the things she had tried in the 
ground in her garden that didn't survive so I am going to write about the 
bulbs that I have tried in my coastal garden that are no longer alive or if 
they are alive I haven't seen them lately or they don't bloom.

In my Stockton garden where it was hotter in summer and slightly colder in 
winter and certainly much dryer and where I had clay soil and bulbs planted 
in raised perennial beds and ground covers I watered regularly I grew a 
number of things that I loved that don't grow here. I had Tigridia come 
back year after year and Ranunculus and many different Narcissus.

There are a few Narcissus that bloom for me here, but I suspect my garden 
just isn't sunny enough. I brought Tigridia with me and it bloomed the 
first year we were here and has never been seen since. The same for 
ranunuculus. I have occasionally seen the latter in gardens here, but never 
the second year. So maybe it is our excessively wet winters. My 
father-in-law grew wonderful ranunculus in his San Francisco pure sand 
garden. Temperatures were similar to mine, but rainfall significantly less. 
His biggest weeds there were Ornithogalum umbellatum and Oxalis pes-caprae. 
He also grew a yellow Alstroemeria that bloomed each year. I have planted 
quite a few Alstroemerias and most are gone and they seldom bloomed. But a 
few keep turning up here and there which puzzles me. Where do they come 
from if I didn't have blooms so therefore no seed.

One cultivar that I had in a very large wooden container eventually 
expanded to such a degree that the boards were coming apart. I emptied it 
out, found an old Herbertia that told how to divide them and repotted. Some 
of the left overs I just dumped on the ground and left. Eventually I 
disposed of them on the other side of my fence which is land that belongs 
to the water company. I was making a brush pile there and one day saw on 
the very top of this tall pile that there were Alstroemeria blooms. The 
tubers had survived and a stalk had made its way through the pile. It 
bloomed well until the deer eventually found it. Now at least three years 
and maybe more later I have an ever increasing clump of Alstroemeria where 
I dumped those tubers I didn't want on my side of the fence. I made a bed 
there and added soil and I don't remember leaving any tubers there. No sign 
of life for years and then...So my experience with Alstroemeria has been 
that if I try to grow it in the ground I can't, but if I mistreat it I can.

Many Watsonias are weedy in my area. We joke about it because the community 
to the south, The Sea Ranch, only allows native plants, but there are 
Watsonias, Narcissus, Amaryllis belladonna, and Zantedeschia aethiopica 
planted that are survivors that can be seen in common areas where they 
aren't supposed to be. I have planted a lot of Watsonia coccinea in the 
ground. One lasted three years before disappearing, but mostly they don't 
come back. Watsonia pillansii was a reliable bloomer for Andrew Wilson in 
his garden in San Diego, but bloomed every 5-6 years here so I took it out. 
I have a number however of some of the shorter species that may be too 
happy in one of my raised beds.

I never saw Habranthus tubispathus again after it went in the ground. Many 
Crocus have lasted 0 to one season. I planted Gloriosa superba in the 
ground when Rachel said she could grow it in Cape Town but it never came 
up. Neither did Rhodophiala bifida, Arthropodium milleflorum, the only 
Colchicum I ever tried or Bulbinella nutans. Now I didn't realize when I 
planted the latter that it was going to be in the path the dog took to 
chase the neighbor's cat that used to tantalize the dog since it was safely 
protected by the deer fence so that could be the explanation for that one. 
Alliums and Calochortus I have tried are not successful (Allium uniflorum 
and Calochortus vestae are exceptions.)

Cyclamen coum and C. hederfolium are producing leaves but not flowers. 
Dichelostemma congestum only lasted a couple of years, but it was planted 
where the deer could get it so I need to try it again. Hermodactylus 
tuberosus bloomed once, but I suspect needs more heat and more sun and I 
haven't seen it lately. Some of the Ixia species I have tried have not 
returned and Kniphofias (summer rainfall species) aren't very happy either. 
Ixia hybrids are weedy however so score one for hybrid vigor.  I have one 
Albuca nelsonii. It is growing where I water weekly in summer but near a 
Coast Redwood so probably isn't getting enough water. It bloomed once and 
hasn't died but hasn't bloomed again and is staying small. I have Nerines 
in the ground and most have never bloomed. I planted out a number of 
Leucocorynes once and they were beautiful but never came back. Moraea 
comptonii and M. minor were short lived showing that not all Homeria types 
are weeds. Muscari grew and returned for me in Stockton, but mostly has 
dwindled here. I have a few growing with succulents under a tree in a 
hollow log that I water occasionally in summer that seem to be surviving.

Ornithogalum arabicum both here and in Stockton lasted only a year or two. 
Rhodohypoxis was short lived in the ground (too wet in winter or too dry in 
summer or both.) Occasionally I see a bloom from a species Tulipa but most 
of them aren't doing well.

I am eager to try some of the things Jane says work for her since she has 
wet winters too. The other thing I am doing is digging a hole and then 
putting a pot in the ground. Then I nest another pot in that pot and have 
the illusion that something is part of my garden that can be changed easily 
summer and winter. I am trying to remember to water the Eucomis that I 
finally got to bloom that way. I tried those in the ground too. They came 
back for a few years but never bloomed.

So my experience has been that you have to not only think genus, but 
species as well. I try to be philosophical about the deaths. I've run out 
of room long ago so I am always looking for a new place to plant. Perhaps 
those Chasmanthes (bicolor, floribunda, floribunda duckittii) need to make 
room for something else. They have huge leaves and ever expanding corms, 
but no flowers.

I'd love to hear from some of our members from Australia from Mediterranean 
areas and some of those members from California who live in the hot valleys 
since your experiences will no doubt be very different than some of us who 
live closer to the ocean.

Mary Sue

Mary Sue Ittner
California's North Coast
Wet mild winters with occasional frost
Dry mild summers

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