early Spring bulbs, California

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Mon, 11 Jun 2007 13:47:22 PDT
Joe discussed Dodecatheon ("shooting star"; Primulaceae) as a western 
American geophyte. I think the eastern American species, D. meadia, which 
is the one usually cultivated, does not have the same type of storage root 
as the numerous summer-dormant western species, which typically grow in 
habitats that are very wet in spring and dry out to some extent later.

Even the genus Primula has turned to geophytic behavior in the American 
west, for example Primula cusickiana (there is also a tuberous Primula in 
Turkey, whose name escapes me at the moment).

I grow Dodecatheon clevelandii, a large species from the central California 
coast, in my dry bulb frame, where it flowers in late winter. It probably 
would not survive in the open garden here. Most other Dodecatheon species 
of the West are alpine to subalpine and rather difficult to grow in lowland 
gardens where they don't get a good cold winter dormant period. D. 
dentatum, which is not showy, is perhaps the easiest. Another species 
sometimes available in commerce is D. pulchellum. The seeds are easy to 
collect and often available in exchanges, but raising seedlings is a slow 
process; they stay small for a long time and are hard to transplant. The 
best way to move them into the garden is to set the entire pot of seedlings 
into its permanent site undisturbed. A good bulbous companion, flowering 
about the same time, is Camassia quamash.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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