Favorite Purple Bulbs--TOW

Jim McKenney jimmckenney@starpower.net
Wed, 22 Sep 2004 14:45:36 PDT
At 05:34 PM 9/21/2004 -0700, Mary Sue Ittner wrote:

>Come on, won't some of the rest of you offer some favorites.

OK, I'll bite - if gingerly.

It was surprisingly hard to come up with five purple flowered bulbs. The
only ones which spring to mind immediately are crocus and garden hyacinths.
Some garden tulips have purplish colors, too. Here's one list:

1. Crocus vernus: several strong purple cultivars are to be found among the
Dutch crocus. Each year when these bloom I'm surprised at just how big the
individual flowers are. Some of these have grown in this garden for between
thirty and forty years without attention. I think we're getting our money's
worth here. The saffron crocus and its relatives provide - rather stingily
-  a very good purple for the autumn. 

2. Garden hyacinths offer a few purple cultivars, too, although a
comparison of the crocus purple and the hyacinth purple may get you
thinking about just what this term purple means. 

3. At least two purplish colors are to be seen in some garden tulips. One
of these colors is a very red purple, the other is a dull blue purple. This
may be a good place to point out that forced tulips and garden grown tulips
of the same clone do not always show the same color. Many modern tulips
were developed for the forced cut flower industry, the Triumphs especially,
and the photographs in the catalogs are apt to show the forced cut flower
colors rather  than the garden colors. Thus what you see in the catalog may
not be what you get in the garden - but not because there has been any
monkey business going on.

4. Glads: it's interesting to consider the history of the garden glad in
this country. During the period between the First and Second World Wars, it
really bloomed as one of if not the most popular garden flowers. But then
something happened to pretty much end that: that something is thrips. Too
bad: purple is a rare color in the summer garden here, and purple in an
inflorescence like that of the glads is just about unknown here. There are
very handsome purple glads available now. I saw a neignborhood garden last
year which was full of white flowers and purple, blueish-purple and
blueish-white glads. This made for a very beautiful and, for these parts,
unusual effect. Incidentally, the local grocery stores sell cut flower
glads of an intense, dark velvety purple unlike that of any glad I've grown
in my garden. 
Ont thing about thrips and glads: if the glads are planted early, they are
likely to bloom before the thrip populations explode and will be beautiful.
Corms which survive the winter in the ground also generally escape the
thrips. Late planted corms are not worth the effort here. 
Gladiolus callianthus (our old friend Acidanthera) apparently is not much
bothered by thrips.  

5. Iris reticulata "old original", which will stand in for all the
wonderful purple iris. "Old original" was planted in either 1960 or 1961,
and has carried on since. It's about as purple as anything in the garden.
It's not the red-purple seen in such reticulate iris cultivars as
'krelagii' or 'Pauline' (or is it 'Paulette'?). "Old original" also has the
scent of Viola odorata. 

6. And finally - I did say gingerly - Kaempferia rotunda. After putting my
list together, it somehow seemed mundane compared to Mary Sue's list: so
I've spiced mine up a bit with some ginger.  Color wise, this is really
stretching things a bit: the flower is hardly purple, but there is a bit of
purple in it. Although hardy near a wall here, it is better in a pot so it
can be bought in and the fragrance appreciated. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where the color purple, both
literally and figuratively, is much appreciated.

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