Favorite Blue Flower Bulbs--TOW

Rodger Whitlock totototo@pacificcoast.net
Mon, 15 Nov 2004 00:07:51 PST
On 15 Nov 04 at 7:58, Mary Sue Ittner wrote:

> At last Diane W. will have her chance as she early on wished
> we'd talk about blue flowers. Please nominate your favorite
> blue bulbs that you grow.

Without a doubt Tecophilaea cyanocrocus! Not only the queen of 
blue bulbs, but the queen of blue flowers generally.

It has a reputation for being tender and especially prone to the 
depredations of slugs because of its scant foliage, so mine are 
kept in pots in a bulb crate that can be carted to safety if we 
get sub-freezing weather.

I haven't found it the easiest bulb to grow, but adopting an
idea on the web from a grower in the LA area, my bulbs are now
potted in a mix that is ~50% canary grit -- very fine granite
grit, really a sharp sand. The granite is believed to provide 
plentiful potassium, but very slowly.

I had the pleasure of hearing Alberto Castillo speak at the 1993 
Western Winter Study Weekend held in San Mateo. (He's the reason 
I attended.) I asked him specifically about tecophilaea culture 
and got two tips: first, grow it in a circumneutral soil, 
neither particularly acidic nor particularly alkaline. Second, 
give it *cool* dry summer resting conditions; don't bake it in 
the sun like a species tulip. My pots usually go onto my 
north-facing front porch for the summer after the foliage dies 
back and are kept there, bone dry but in the shade, until 
repotted around the beginning of September.

There are three forms of Tecophilaea cyanocrocus: the type, 
which is a deep, pure blue; T. c. leichtlinii, which has a large 
eye of white; and T.c. violacea, which is distinctly purple. I 
believe there are crosses between these forms in cultivation now 
that have given a wider range of color forms. Also, the recently 
discovered stand of it in the wild (first sighting in 55 years) 
is reported to have been of intermediate colors. I believe a 
white form has been reported from in cultivation, but somehow a 
white tecophilaea seems to be missing the point.

The other tecophilaea species, T. violiflora, is not worth 
growing as the flowers are quite small. Or so I have been told 
by someone who should know.

Rodger Whitlock
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Maritime Zone 8, a cool Mediterranean climate

on beautiful Vancouver Island

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