Bulbs for Mediterranean Gardens

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Sat, 22 Mar 2003 09:47:54 PST
Michael Mace wrote that certain "Mediterranean" bulbs do better when
watered some in summer.

I think there are not too many bulbs that should get "bone dry" in their
dormant period. If you look at how they grow in the wild, they are often
deep in the soil, or next to rocks, where some residual moisture remains.
This is especially true of bulbs that grow in the deep desert, such as
Hesperocallis undulata of the N. American Southwest. They may also grow
under shrubs which, admittedly, take up a lot of water (like Michael's
Japanese maple, which is probably using enough water to moderate the soil
moisture around its bulbous neighbors. Moreover, the shade cools the soil.

And then, look what happens when we have a series of unusually wet years in
native bulb areas: they bloom very well.

Giving summer water is crucial, I believe, if you are growing your bulbs in
pots that are above ground. (I keep all my pots plunged in sand, except for
those in the frost-free room, and the latter are placed under the benches
where they get a little water from time to time.) I have two "unwatered"
sections, but even here I give them a bare sprinkle every 3 or 4 weeks in
summer, just so the humidity of the soil does not drop too far. When I lift
them from those sections, the soil seems dry, but it is cool. (The summer
nights here are quite cool, even after hot days.)

Michael mentioned using peat (called "peat moss" in the USA) in the potting
mix. I use it in seed mix for its relative sterility, but I don't like to
use it in potting mix for bulbs. Once it dries out, it is very hard to get
it evenly moist again without working it physically. It is of course
difficult for the gardener who has no access to compost (UK, leafmold) to
find a good substitute for it. I'm fortunate to have an alder woodland on
my property, and also some blackberry thickets; blackberries are am utter
curse, but once they have been cut down and the canes removed, the soil
underneath is a rich, almost weed-free humus. $50 to the tractor guy, and I
have a leafmold mine for 2 or 3 years.

Jane McGary
Northwest Oregon

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