carefree garden bulbs

Boyce Tankersley
Tue, 29 Apr 2008 08:14:06 PDT
I've modified Diane's season descriptions slightly to reflect our
continental climate in Chicago, Illinois. 

Climate change has flipped on us so far this year, providing a very cold
and snowy winter and a very late (and snowy) spring. Yesterday we
experienced snow flurries for about 1.5 hours and temperatures last
night dropped to 31 degrees F. 

Fortunately most of the spring geophytes are hardy folks and the flowers
survive down to the mid-20 degrees F. Early and midseason bulbs came
into flower simultaneously this spring - providing for breathtaking

Winter: November to March

We read with envy of the geophytes blooming in other parts of the world.
Still in all, the reports help keep the faith that spring really is on
the way.

Spring: March, April and May

Galanthus elwesii - one of the earliest reliable bulbs in our area.
During a really mild fall we had a few that flowered in October/November
but that was a very unusual year.

Merendera trigyna - this accession originated from a Georgian collection
in 2000 and has proven to be reliable near the edge of a raised bed in
the Chicago area - definitely winter hardy. Delightful small pink-lite
purple flowers.

Scilla sibirica - nothing beats this blue color in spring! It reseeds in
cultivated areas but is not invasive of natural habitats.

Crocus tommasinianus - the only Crocus to survive long term in this
climate; it slowly increases by division and reseeding. A week of just
above freezing winds unfortunately zapped the display this spring.

Eremurus - the foxtail lilies have proven reliable over the last 7 years
- and we have experienced some significant environmental conditions
during this time frame. Slow to reseed, the original plants are slowly
increasing in number of spikes.

Narcissus - Division 1, 2 and 3 are all reliable over the long term.

Summer:  June to August

Iris sibirica 'Caesars Brother' Deep blue (purple) color and more
reliable in the long term than some of the other cultivars sporting
other colors.

Bearded iris - miniature, intermediate and tall bearded iris all survive
here long term. Iris borers are a serious pest but avoiding monocultures
of bearded iris seems to provide long term success.

Lycoris squamigera - the other species are very nice but none of them
have the history of long term survival of this taxon. Clumps slowly
expand over time and the displays just keep getting better.

Fall: September and October

The species and cultivars of Colchicum provide the most reliable bloom
in the Chicago region in Fall.

Boyce Tankersley
Director of Living Plant Documentation
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022
tel: 847-835-6841
fax: 847-835-1635

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