Bulb house so far

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Tue, 29 Mar 2011 17:13:07 PDT
After growing bulbs in pots plunged in sand-filled cold frames for 20 
years, last fall I removed them from the pots and planted them 
directly in raised beds in a large bulb house -- a commercial 
steel-frame greenhouse with a solid double-walled polycarbonate roof 
and sides covered in hardware cloth (metal mesh). This is on a 
property new to me, close to the Portland urban area, where I knew it 
would be a little warmer and (I thought) not quite so wet. It has 
been a LITTLE warmer, but every bit as wet -- today broke the 
historic record for rainfall here in the month of March. I didn't 
know how the bulbs would react after having been lifted in July and 
stored through August in paper bags in the basement of my country house.

So far most of the plants seem to have survived the experience, 
though there may be a few losses, especially among Calochortus. I 
think Calochortus may "sulk" for a year after being moved, so perhaps 
I'll see the missing return next year. The orientation of the two 8 
by 40-foot beds has worked well, with the more moisture-tolerant 
species planted in the bed into which the prevailing winds blow a 
little rain. I'm watering both sides these days from a large 
rainwater storage tank that is rapidly filled by the runoff from the 
bulb house roof. Even the desert species enjoy extra moisture at this 
time in their growth cycle.

A few plants flowered before or after their expected dates, or are 
shorter than they were in the pots. Fritillaria eduardii, perhaps 
confused by its newly acquired deep root run, is trying to open its 
flowers right at ground level, but the first to bloom has elongated 
its stem and now looks normal. The other Imperialis section species 
didn't do this.

Particularly pleasing is the appearance of the Corydalis species, 
which have sent their stems out horizontally through the pea gravel 
topdressing in a way that looks much more like photos of these plants 
in nature, than the potted specimens did. Today I noticed that some 
of the Regelia irises also seem to have run horizontally, one even 
reaching the concrete block wall of the bed before sending up a fan 
of leaves. The Biarum species already look more robust and I hope 
will eventually achieve the impressive floral size I've seen in the 
Mediterranean lands.

Because I had to fit all 1200+ species into about 3/5 of the space I 
had in the frames, they are closely intermingled, though identified 
with permanent labels in the center of each species group. The result 
is getting a bit messy-looking, especially as the Crocus leaves 
elongate, but I don't think anything is going to object to having 
company. In nature most of these plants grow with grasses, shrubs, 
annuals, and other geophytes.

Every day brings new flowers, including some blooming for me for the 
first time from seed. I can spend an hour or two a day out of the 
rain (though chilly) just observing them -- and trying to identify 
the "Fritillaria sp." and "Tulipa sp." items, a hopeless task without 
adequate keys.

Some members of our NARGS chapter came over Sunday to see them, 
despite the cold wind that soon drove us into the house for hot tea. 
PBS members in the Portland area are of course welcome to visit too.

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon

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