Slow time on the bulb scene

Mark McDonough
Wed, 15 Jul 2009 19:58:18 PDT
Jim Jones, a fellow gardener from my hometown of Lexington, Massachusetts, 
contributed to the thread "Slow time on the bulb scene" by writing: "Indeed 
there aren't many bulbous plants in bloom".  
Jim, you're not growing enough Alliums!  July is most definitely peak for 
alliums.  Besides the alliums, a number of other geophyte goodies are blooming 
too.  But let me address some of the alliums first, with a few photo links (most 
all taken this past weekend, July 12, 2009) to help illustrate. 
Starting in mid June, but certainly still at a high point in July, are 
innumerable forms and variations on Allium cernuum or nodding onion.  Many of 
mine have actually crossed with A. senescens and other European rhizomatous 
species, typically resulting in distinctively larger robust plants that are 
undeniably showy.  Here are some views of favorite selections and general views 
showing some of the range of colors and flower/plant form.…
... a good pink (ignore the tape on the stems, it ios a marker for me to collect seed)...……
... a favorite with rather small tight heads of bright pink:…
... a very tall hybrid with strong stems and full mid pink flowers:…   (watch for URL wrapping, copy and paste into your browser).…
... a tall late hybrid with A. senescens, makes good clumps:……

Some of the earlier Allium senescens, nutans, and angulosum plants are 
flowering, although most wait until August.  Until then I rather enjoy the 
swarms of swirling & coiling, nodding buds that eminate from spiralling mounds 
of succulent strappy green or gray leaves, telegraphing the late summer show of 
pastel color poms.………
July is also time for the brightest Allium colors, mostly from yellow Allium 
flavum, and the innumerable color forms (some really good reds, orange, and 
pinks) from Allium flavum ssp. tauricum.  Regrettably I have lost many of these 
great color forms in the past few years, so must work to build up stock and 
isolate best colors. Similar in general appearance to Allium flavum is Allium 
paniculatum coming in a range of color forms and heights, along with purple and 
white forms of A. carinatum ssp. pulchellum.………
... a good unnamed orange one…
... and two pics of A. kurtzianum x A. flavum ssp. tauricum + other tauricums:……

Also offering up true red flowers is one of the first of the Chinese Allium 
species, namely A. prattii, with open spheres of vinous red carried above neat 
lorate basal foliage.  This is a slow grower, which has never set seed for me.  
A dozen and a half other Chinese alliums are in bud, but like many Chinese 
species, they are mostly all late flowering, a mainstay for the August-September 
Surprisingly, some of the Mexican species are hardy, but are also late blooming, 
some well into the fall.  One that's blooming now is Allium mannii, an 
attractive well-behaved smallish species with 12-14" stems and neat white 
flowers with light red nerves.  Allium scaposum from Baja California, Mexico, is 
budded now... not very showy with few-flowered white umbels, but a welcome 
addition regardless.  Allium glandulosum worries me each year, as it doesn't 
sprout until about mid June!  It has no sign of buds yet, but as it blooms in 
late September - November, there's still plenty of time.  The inflorescense is a 
loose hemisphere of dark brooding red stellate florets; I really like this one. 
Two favorite white onions in bloom now are Allium ramosum and A.plummerae.  The latter comes from high alpine meadows in Arizona and New Mexico, making 
eye-catching clumps of neatly upright grey foliage, purplish-tipped buds, and 
clear white upfacing flowers.  In shade, it'll bloom before plants grown in sun 
(which is where it wants to be).  I never understand why Allium ramosum gets so 
confused with Allium tuberosum... A. ramosum is by far the better plant, 
flowering in early/mid summer on talls stems, completely different foliage 
characteristics, and clean white long-lasting flowers backed with a red midveins 
on the tepals.  The late summer/fall blooming Allium tuberosum looks quite 
different, and is a complete thug in my experience; I cannot advocate growing 
Another really slow grower is Allium macranthum, and Asian species that gets 
confused with the American nodding onion because of the nodding florets (versus 
the whole nodding infloresence in Allium cernuum).  I've grown this plant for 19 
years (seed collected in 1990) and each year it'll have perhaps 3 flowering stems.  This year there are a dozen or more stems, the first pale pink flushed flowers opened, these deepening to a ruddy madder rose-purple color with age.  This is yet another one that never sets seed. 
There's been some mention by Jim Waddick and others about Anthericum ramosum.  

This is an absolute favorite in my garden, picture-perfect neat and trim arched 
foliage is a basal mass, and the literal "cloud of white starry flowers".  The 
pictures I post are a bit early, it'll be another few days or a week before the 
white cloud has fully erupted.  Jane McGary warns that this seeds about too 
freely in her garden; here it almost never seeds around (even after lots of seed 
set), so now I deliberately collect and scratch in the seed around the Allium 
garden in hope of increasing it's presence.  I like how the plumey cloud of 
white towers over and compliments the base mass of purply-pink Allium blooms.………
Maybe another couple dozen allium species in bloom, but need to move on to other things.  
Bloomeria crocea ssp. montana, from Jane McGary is making a terrific appearance 
again this year (and surprisingly hardy).  The tall slender stems support an 
improbably large loose sphere of golden yellow stars, nearly 8" across.  The 
photo shows my hand holding the stems still to photograph them on that breezy 
day, giving a good idea just how large the flower heads are.…
The tiny Brodiaea purdyi is flowering nicely.  So too are a few seedlings of 
Triteleia laxa in variable shades of blue appeared many yards away (and uphill) 
from their original location, has me wondering about the method of seed 
Cyclamen purpurescens, in some really good silver leaf forms, starting to flower 
well now.  The fact the Magnolia they are planted under was nearly destroyed 
last December with a mega-icestorm, means the are is getting more light and 
possibly they are starting earlier than in year's past. A dwarf variegated Viola co-mingles.……
The biggest is mentioned here, Arisaema heterophyllum.  Another one that I worry about each year, as it never emerges until after the 1st week of June, but then in just three weeks shoots up and produces a large green hooded bloom, from which the rat-tail-like spathix curves out and stands erect well above the 
flower.  I know some disbelievers that this species can grow this tall, so I 
measured it and there it stands at exactly 72" or an even 6' to the top of the 
Other Ariseamas are setting good seed this year, which I'm always happy about.  
Here are two such fruiting Arisaemas, A. tashiroi, growing nearly 4', very 
slender, with fantastic snake-patterned leaf base/stalks, and a hybrid between 
it and A. amurense, which takes on the much courser robust foliage and shorter 
growth like amurense, but inherited the strongly snake-skin patterned stem 

Last, some nice "Hems" blooming (Hemerocallis).  I'm not a huge fan of daylilies, although there is some interesting hybridization work going on that returns to the classic elegance of the species... more on this later.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, near the New Hampshire border, USDA Zone 5

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