TOW Landscaping with bulbs

Cathy Craig
Tue, 07 Oct 2003 11:02:44 PDT
Hello all,

There are a few bulbs that have naturalized quite well here in Southern California.

N. Thalia has naturalized wherever I have planted it: on the rather wet, shady north-east side of our yard, also on the hot and dry west side. The more I garden, the more I come to appreciate white flowers. They never clash, always stand out without screaming, show up well at dusk and in the evening dark, always look clean and cheerful. They very gradually increase without benefit of fertilizer and are left to their own devices. One can rely on them to bloom well above the foliage - not true of many other commercial narcissus.

The hybrid darwin tulip T. Ollioules (pink and silver) has naturalized in a north bed of very slightly amended clay. They were planted deeply, over a foot, are never fertilized, the bed even though irregated remains pretty dry throughout the year. I planted about a dozen some 4 or 5 years ago and have perhaps 14-16 now that bloom each spring. No indication of the bulbs splitting as yet.

Nerine bowdenii (no special selection) has naturallized next to a perennial hollyhock on the shady north-east side (near the N. Thalia). Never disturbed nor fertilized, the clump is a faithful bloomer and seems quite happy even though it gets quite a lot of regular water from the irregation system throughout the year.

The common Dutch Hyacinth all seem to naturalize and bloom at top size for many years. They apparently need no chill (they sure aren't getting any here). I plant these about a foot deep and remove the foliage when slightly dessicated (pulls out of the bulb top easily). They also tolerate having their green leaves cut back a bit when I can't stand the mess, and come back just fine the following year. They will eventually split but this seems to take 4 or 5 years before they need replacing. The ones that come back most reliably (per # bulbs planted) is the purple H. Peter Stuyvesant in the relatively dry west parts of the property. Part of Peter's success may be due to the fact I plant more of him than of anything else. The hyacinths will produce full-sized heads for several years before the bulbs split - and so do not seem to 'gradually diminish in flower size'.

Leucojum aestivum has naturallized in a dry bed on the north west that sits atop a slope. It increases well each year. One of my favorite things about the L's is that they all bloom at varying times and so the overall display lasts over two or three months. Since the flowers are relatively small, they would be better closer to the house or to an oft-used walk or pathway.

That's my five successes. My most lamented failure to date remains the @*#!  F. imperialis. I have planted these devils everywhere, in all conditions, at 8 inches to 16 inches deep, in clay soil and in a special planting mixtures (in the holes), have pre-chilled them, not pre-chilled them, and have yet to see one green leaf! ...much less any flowers. This year I have a couple in pots. I roped Mom (Phyllis Flower of the green thumbs) into putting a couple in pots too. Test results this spring.

Cathy Craig Pres PBS
Maritime zone 9b

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