Bulbs for California central valley

Joyce Miller onager@midtown.net
Mon, 26 Jan 2004 12:22:18 PST
Hi Richard,

You wrote:  Snip...Please recommend some bulbs/geophytes for beginners for 
California's Central Valley.

         I live across the Sacramento River from Roy Sachs; we share the 
same climate.  The genera listed below have survived and bloomed for me 
over the years.  Many, many were grown from seed.  My reason for being 
especially specific with genera names is so that you can consult reference 
books for specific details on growing species.  So much success depends on 
the "little details" that go beyond dig a hole, plant 'em, and cover them up.

         "Easy" is a difficult term to define.  I am both a careful and a 
careless gardener.  Almost all of my bulbs are grown in beds raised 12 to 
18 inches.   Micro-climates are extremely critical.  I am careful to select 
location, exposure and water delivery.   For example, e.g. Cyclamen sp 
located under a Trident maple which keeps the tubers "dry" during the 
summer dormancy.  By contrast, a C. hederifolium is in full sun location 
and produces large leaves.  This first year after transplanting the other 
Cyclamen, I notice the tubers under the maple have smaller leaves and 
flowers.  Maybe fertilizer is indicated.  From casual experience, it 
appears Babiana and some South African bulbs can be successfully ground 
grown in locations where there is little summer water.  I am experimenting 
with a couple of Gladiolus species in the ground.  Roy is entirely wise in 
using the 30% shade for most.  In my case, I plant where they can get shade 
from trees and shrubs.

         Careless gardening.  While I weed conscientiously, I rarely 

Besides many of the genera listed by Roy, I grow or have grown, in the 
ground (many from seed):

Iridaceae: Alophia drummondi, Belamcanda, Crocosmia, Gynandriris, Sparaxia, 
Ixia,  Freesia, Sisyrinchium bellum, S. augustifolium, S. macrocarpum. Iris 
pseudopumilum, I. unguicularis,and several Pacific Coast Iris species and 
hybrids. Particularly exciting are the Oncocyclus Iris and their bearded 
iris crosses. The Sacramento Valley with its comparatively light winter 
rainfall and hot dry summers, combined with sandy soil and sloped beds 
allow the growth of these exquisite Irids.

Amaryllidaceae:  Agapanthus, Amaryllis, Cybistetes (never bloomed), 
Eucrosia, Sternbergia, Zephranthes, Sprekelia (shade), Hymenocallis (not 
well), Nerine bowdenii, Crinum and Amarcrinum, Pancratium, Clivia, Cyrtanthus.

Liliaceae: Ipheion, Allium, Tricyrtus, Tulbaghia, and Lilies.

Araceae:  Arisaema, Arum italicum.

Compositae:  Dahlias, when planted in a deep hole (like potatoes) and 
gradually filled, tend to survive winter in the ground.

Primulaceae:  Cyclamen sp, not all in the ground.

Haemodoraceae:   Anigosanthos (Kangaroo Paws).  They have survived two mild 
winters, but the real test will be when we get our 25F degree winters.

         Lachenalia sp have done well in pots outside this winter.  I agree 
with Richard that they may not be ok in the ground in the summer because of 
summer dry requirement.

         Genera that have been entirely unsuccessful in my experience, in 
the ground and pots are Erythronium, Trillium, Fritilla, and Lycoris.  The 
latter often disappear totally after one or more years.

Kind regards,  Joyce Miller

Joyce E. Miller   mailto:onager@midtown.net
Zone USDA 9A Summer highs 100+degrees F for several to many days.  Winter 
lows 27 degrees F  

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