Carefree garden bulbs in Kansas City

James Waddick
Thu, 01 May 2008 07:35:10 PDT
Dear Mary Sue,
	I really like you two main criteria for 'carefree' " bulbs':

	1. They grow in the ground all year round (not dug to dry in 
summer, or protected in winter nor pampered in frames or under 
protection). Just out there in the ground.

	2. They bloom reliably in the garden.

	and I'd add, 3.	They make an impact in the landscape.

	Given these three criteria and with a few minor concessions 
here's my list, but by genus and this does not include all species, 
but I'll mention a few.

	1. Anemone - The stars here are Anemone blanda both the 
typical blue 'windflowers' and the selection 'White Splendor'. 
Hundreds sparkle across the garden. Slightly later A nemorosa and the 
close relative A. ranunculoides make a smaller statement in the shady 
areas of the garden. For their color and early bloom, I would not 
only not be without any of them, I'd always want to plant a few more.

	2. Narcissus  - I suppose we have a limited selection since 
we can't grow the paper whites, bulbocodium and many species, but 
some named cvs are vigorous and reliable such as 'Ceylon', 'Quail', ' 
Pipit', 'Ice Follies','Dutch Master' and other various large and 
small cup varieties in yellow , white and with pink cups. The 
favorite miniature is 'Baby Moon' and for sheer number of flowers 
'Geranium''. Among species N. obvallaris, the Tenby Daffodil, is 
great too and self sows without being too pushy.

	3. Crocus,but a limited range since the squirrels love to dig 
and eat them. C. tomassinianus in all forms esp. the easy 'Ruby 
Giant' and C. sieberi  with emphasis on 'Firefly'. Only C. speciosum 
gives a fair show in fall, but I love. C. banaticus and Sativus in 
their season.  I grow others, but these are the most carefree.

	4. Galanthus - Most do not do well here and I would not 
include this at all if were not for a single unknown cultivar I got 
from Don Hacknberry's Appalachian Gardens years ago as "Mighty Atom - 
NOT' (MAN).This is a winner and has been divided and spread around 
where it performs exceptionally each spring. In fall G. reginae-olgae 
does very well.  Neither G. nivalis, G. elwesii, woronowii and others 
do much.  The only named cv to hold up to MAN is 'S. Arnott'.

	5. Tulipa- again very restricted due to predation. Our 
favorites are probably odd - T. sylvestris which is almost weedy in 
its spread underground, and a large clump of T. hageri (?) 'Little 
Beauty' . T. turkestanica is also reliable.  This year T. clusiana 
'Lady Jane' has been exceptional. And I just wish we had more T. 

	6. Arum - Of course A. italicum is a basic work horse, but 
other surprises such as A. byzantinum, 'Chameleon', A. hygrophyilum. 
A rupicola and the exotic A nigrum are best. A few others add 
variety. A close second is Dracunculus vulgaris which doesn't always 
bloom every year (Thankfully) due to late frost damage of the flower, 
but the foliage is always impressive and attracts attention. Other 
foliage Aroids  extend this look.

	7. Iris and especially easy Junos such as I. magnifica, I 
willmottiana, I aucheri, I graeberiana. These are very appropriate 
for the category. A few more  are less reliable bloomers, but receive 
no special care. They are in a raised bed, built into a hillside, but 
filled with mostly native soil and extra gravel. No special annual 
care or protection. They do not get borers which destroy most bearded 
iris eventually.

	The above are all spring bulbs. Galanthus reginae -olgae 
blooms in the fall and some Arum show their foliage in fall, but we 
have a shortage of carefree bulbs for later in the season. The choice 
in chronological order is:

	Late spring to summer: (8) Lilium. from species such as L. 
michiganense and L. formosanum to cvs such as Asiatics, Orientals, 
Trumpets and Orienpets. We have a few favorites such as 'Gran 
Paradiso' (Asiatic),  'Leslie Woodruff' and 'Silk Road' (Orienpets) 
just off hand.

	9.Crinum; Although we grow a few more, the most carefree are 
C. bulbispermum in a range of colors from near white to near red and 
many pink shades. It has all the best characteristics. C. powellii is 
perhaps the most abundant crinum, but the flowers do not open as well 
as others, even C. powellii 'Album' is an improvement. These do get 
leaves loosely piled over them in fall, when we remember. The new 
'Super Ellen' has proven a winner and we anticpate a bigger impact as 
it grows.

	Fall:	10, Lycoris - last of the season to bloom and totally 
care free. The best performers are L. squamigera, chinensis, 
longituba, caldwellii, and slightly lesser sprengeri and incarnata. 
These bloom abundantly and in a range of colors from pink to white 
and yellow  as well as size of flowers and season of bloom.  Now, in 
spring,  they form great tufts of succulent foliage some knee high 
and higher. Architecturally impressive and richly colored.

	There's any number of smaller bulbs that I love. Eranthis, 
the winter aconite plays a special role for its early bloom and for 
foliage hundreds of  Polygonatum odoratum variegatum have a big show 
in the shade garden. Minor bulbs from the tiny Scilla bifolia to the 
larger Fritillaria persica each make a garden event at bloom, but 
don't have landscape impact for long enough.

	I am certainly impressed by Boyce's mention of Merendera 
trigyna (where can I get some to try here? ) and I bemoan the loss of 
Foxtail lilies here from last year's killer freeze. A planting 
opportunity for sure !.

	Hope this gives an impression of the bulb parade in the 
center of the US. 		Best	Jim W.
Dr. James W. Waddick
8871 NW Brostrom Rd.
Kansas City Missouri 64152-2711
Ph.    816-746-1949
Zone 5 Record low -23F
	Summer 100F +

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