Jane McGary
Sun, 14 Oct 2018 16:43:57 PDT
Although Sternbergia lutea (including sicula) does often grow on rocky 
slopes, I have also seen wild populations growing on flattish sites, 
though also rocky. I've seen some growing in small holes in limestone, 
too. Where it grows, however, almost all soils are rocky. Mine are 
growing in sharp sand and gravel, but I remember seeing a good colony 
here in Portland in what appeared to be pretty ordinary well-drained 
garden soil. It does prefer full sun both in nature and in the garden. I 
think the soil has to heat up in summer; some ordinary S. lutea I 
planted under mat-forming thyme have failed to thrive. I put them there 
to guard against the Narcissus fly.

That raises another possibility why Sylvia's plants have diminished: 
Narcissus fly, or bulb fly, attacks sternbergias badly. The best defense 
is to cover the plants with Reemay or a scoop of gravel when the foliage 
starts to turn color before withering, so the fly can't lay its eggs on 
the leaves (the larva hatches and crawls down into the bulb through the 
gap left by the scape, then eats the bulb). I didn't happen to cover my 
S. greuteriana in an open raised bed, but I have a lot of ordinary 
daffodils nearby, partly to lure the bulb flies away from more valuable 
plants. Most of my sternbergia stock is in the bulb house, which has 
wire mesh sides that seem to keep the bulb flies out; also I go into it 
frequently during the time they emerge and kill any that I hear.

I wonder if Sylvia's garden in Oakland (east of San Francisco Bay) is 
shady? If you don't have a slope, a gravelly raised bed in sun will 
serve the same purpose.

Jane McGary

On 10/14/2018 11:35 AM, Sylvia Sykora wrote:
> Reading Jane’s posting about Sternbergia reminded me that here in the Bay Area of California, I see very few plantings;  mine have diminished to only two stalwart plants from an original larger planting.  I recently read in a book by a British (!) gardener that based on where he saw Sternbergia growing in the wild, success was dependent on growing them in full sun, among rocks on a slope.  And ideas for those of us without a rocky slope?
> Thank you.
> Sylvia Sykora
> Oakland CA where we’re in Fire Watch mode today

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