Favorite Red Flowered Bulbs--TOW

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@starpower.net
Thu, 17 Jun 2004 15:09:32 PDT
Thanks, Ken and Jane, for extending this discussion in the direction of two
plants which I almost put on my "five favorites" list. 

Crocosmia 'Lucifer' grows well here and is evidently hardy. I wish the same
could be said for the old "Montbretia" hybrids: these seem to take time to
settle in and bloom well, yet they are typically not hardy here. Even old
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora is not winter-proof here in some years. Years
ago I had Crocosmia His Majesty (and I have photos of it) but my stock was
odd in that it produced flowers with varying numbers of perianth segments. 

Does the name 'Lucifer' properly belong to a clone or to a group of similar

Alstroemeria psittacina/pulchella is not quite a weed here - I wish it
were! But it has been in this garden for at least twenty years. So far it
is the only alstro I've liked enough to keep. It sets seed here but not
freely. My plants grow near a south-facing wall. I've tried them twice in
the open garden  and they disappeared. In each case I suspected rodent
predation, but why rodents would be a problem in the open garden and not
near the wall makes me think that lack of hardiness was the cause. I tried
the much recommended trick of planting the roots well down and filling in
as the plant makes upward growth - it didn't work. The plants near the wall
began to bloom last week. 

With respect to Dichelostemma ida-maia, I gave the wrong impression in my
earlier e-mail. I've had it on several times, initially back in the early
'70's. Planted in early fall, near a wall, the plants came into growth
right away and put up foliage which seemed to have little freeze
resistance. If mulched, these plants would survive and sometimes bloom.
Some new acquisitions two years ago, planted in a raised bulb bed in the
open, survived to produce weak growth and no bloom - and were never seen
again. Some Pink Diamond acquired at the same time bloomed but did not
return the following year. 

Last fall I planted a few more in a new raised bed in the open. These were
planted late - in min-December- with the idea that late planting would
discourage foliage growth during inclement weather. That worked - the
foliage was discouraged; so were all parts of the plant. None of these ever
appeared above ground. Mrs. Wilder, writing early in the twentieth century,
expressed doubts about the hardiness of this species. But doesn't this
plant have a fairly wide north to south distribution?  

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where Ida May's Floral
Firecracker generally turns out to be a dud.

At 10:11 AM 6/17/2004 -0700, you wrote:
>Kenneth Hixson's notes on red-flowered bulbs demonstrate the intricacies of 
>plant "hardiness" in western North America. Ken lives near where I do in 
>northwestern Oregon, but at a lower elevation and, I'm guessing, with much 
>more retentive soil (more silt, less rock).
>He wrote:
>>         Rodger mentioned Crocosmia Lucifer.  It is almost a glaring red,
>>but here seems to be only borderline hardy.
>In contrast, in my colder garden, 'Lucifer' has flourished for many years, 
>surviving temperatures around 0 F (-16 C) and increasing to huge clumps. I 
>discovered, however, that when you divide it, you need to keep the whole 
>"stack" of corms together, or the plants will be weak for a few years.
>Then Ken wrote,
>>Alstroemeria psittacina/pulchella is a weed
>This species does not survive the winter in my garden, although I do grow 
>several other Alstro species in the open.
>>Fritillaria recurva or F. gentneri can't be on my favorites list as
>>I've never gotten beyond the seedling stage.
>F. gentneri should probably be considered a subspecies of F. recurva, but 
>keeping it separate is helpful in protecting its habitat, since it is a 
>listed "species." It is quite variable and crosses readily with more 
>typical F. recurva. I've also obtained seedlings by crossing F. gentneri 
>(which I got through a seed collector's mistake!) with F. eastwoodiae, 
>since I had only one gentneri in flower and they are probably self-sterile. 
>All three are generally red (the only instance of this color in the genus) 
>with yellow checkering, or yellow with red checkering (I think the latter 
>is strictly correct), but orange and even yellow are more common in the 
>small-flowered eastwoodiae. All three are easy to grow in the bulb frame, 
>but young bulbs probably would not survive the extra-long wet season of 
>northern Oregon in the open. They are among the mid-season bloomers in the 
>Another red-bulb hardiness note: Jim McKenney in the Mid-Atlantic region 
>wondered if Dichelostemma ida-maia would be winter-hardy for him. I'm 
>pretty sure it would be, though the catalog rating he cites (Zone 5) seems 
>exaggerated to me, unless other climatic conditions were just right; the 
>foliage is present in late winter. They do well outdoors here. Anyway, it 
>isn't much of an investment to experiment, since they are very cheap bulbs. 
>Easy from seed, too. D. ida-maia surprises me by standing upright in the 
>garden even where it has no surrounding plants to lean on. It also infests 
>the bulb frames, having pulled down below the wire underlying the plunge 
>medium, where I can't get at it. The hummingbirds were buzzing me yesterday 
>evening as I collected seed from the frames -- they wanted me away from 
>their buffet.
>Jane McGary
>Northwestern Oregon, USA
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