Hyacinthoides lingulata ssp ciliolata and some crocuses

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Tue, 27 Oct 2009 11:56:06 PDT
I was surprised to read that Jim McKenney considers the color of 
Hyacinthoides lingulata ssp ciliolata to be dull gray-blue. The stock 
from which his plant is derived produces flowers of attractive clear 
light blue. I wonder if his plant is receiving too little sunlight 
(mine's in full sun), or if the acidity of the soil affects the 
color. Mine are in a fairly acidic soil, as is common in this region, 
and I rarely add lime to the mix in which I plant my bulbs. There is 
something about the soil here in the Cascade foothills that seems to 
deepen color in many flowers, particularly roses; the soil (volcanic 
in origin) is high in potassium and iron.

I have another subspecies, ssp. lingulata, which flowers about 3 
weeks earlier than ssp. ciliolata. The early-flowering one is more 
susceptible to defoliating in cold temperatures, but it comes back 
the next year. Both of them increase well vegetatively but I have 
never obtained ripe seed from them. Jim is probably correct in 
thinking it would not be a good open-garden plant, because the rather 
succulent foliage is easily damaged if it freezes when wet. It is, 
however, a very small plant and easily grown in a small container.

It's a little disappointing that many species formerly placed in the 
genus Scilla have been transferred to Hyacinthoides, though when you 
look at the bulbs it's easy to see one morphological reason for doing 
so. The existence of Hyacinthoides campanulata (Spanish bluebell) and 
its horticultural hybrids with H. non-scripta turns many gardeners 
off the whole genus because Spanish bluebells are so invasive. Some 
people still know them as Scilla (they went through Endymion, too), 
and as a result will not plant any member of the genus Scilla -- just 
as experience with Muscari armeniacum or M. azureum keeps them from 
trying any of the better-behaved Muscari species. Scilla itself has 
also been split by Speta into about 14 genera, but I don't know how 
widely this view is being accepted. Incidentally, one still 
encounters some Hyacinthoides under the name Hyacinthus -- I obtained 
at least one such species from Monocot Nursery's seedlist in the 
early 1990s. The bulbs of Hyacinthoides and Hyacinthus are, however, 
quite distinct in appearance.

The old Dutch stock of Crocus kotschyanus was sold under various 
names, unfortunately including C. karduchorum, which is the valid 
name of a rarely grown species, also lavender and fall-flowering but 
distinguished by a very finely divided pure white stigma. (I was able 
to distribute a few corms of C. karduchorum a couple of years ago, 
having raised it from seed originating with the Gothenburg Botanic 
Garden, and I hope they are being cherished.) If Jim's plants have 
deformed flowers, they are, as Rodger notes, infected with virus and 
should be discarded. This strain increases very fast vegetatively but 
doesn't flower much. There are, however, at least two free-flowering 
selections of C. kotschyanus available, one named 'Reliant' and 
another that I have only under the collectors' initials, JRJK. I have 
never seen symptoms of virus in the latter, and also they will 
self-sow a little, the seeds being transported by ants into grassy 
areas typical of crocus habitat in nature.

The best naturalizing fall crocuses here are C. speciosus, which is 
good in northern gardens too, being of alpine origin, and C. 
pulchellus. Both the former can be obtained in several named forms. 
Also doing well in the garden are C. nudiflorus and C. serotinus. C. 
cartwrightianus is another possibility for the open garden in 
moderate climates. If I lived in California, I'd use C. goulimyi, C. 
niveus, and C. boryi extensively. Like spring crocuses, these 
fall-flowering ones are safest planted in the lawn or in crevices in 
the rock garden, where voles and other rodents are least likely to 
get at them. If you have a retentive soil, C. banaticus can be a real 
success, but my soil here dried out too much in summer. Later in the 
fall there is C. ochroleucus, surprisingly cold-hardy, and it somehow 
avoids the voles where little else does; it is, however, a little 
crocus and doesn't open up in the typically bad weather of early December.

Growing under cover here and in flower now are the various subspecies 
of C. cancellatus, which can be very beautifully marked; C. mathewii 
with its deep violet throat; C. pallasii and C. asumaniae, similar 
but the latter is more beautiful; the large C. niveus, in white and 
pale blue; and several kinds of C. serotinus. C. moabiticus continues 
to struggle along but I think I've lost C. hermoneus at last, after 
16 years. There are a couple of the fall-flowering subspecies of C. 
biflorus, such as C. b. melantherus, but mice got C. b. 
pseudonubigenus a couple of years ago, and I would very much 
appreciate knowing of anyone who still has it.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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