Cheerful fall bulbs

Jane McGary
Tue, 08 Oct 2019 15:08:12 PDT
Here in western Oregon we are into autumn a little earlier than usual, 
the rains having begun around mid-September rather than mid-October. 
It's also been cooler than usual. (Apologies to readers in the eastern 
USA, who have been suffering a heat wave.) Bulbs in both the open garden 
and the covered bulb house (which I start watering when the rains start) 
are responding happily. The bulb lawn had a little show of Colchicum 
boissieri and now has Crocus kotschyanus, Crocus serotinus, and Crocus 
niveus. C. kotschyanus also flourishes in the rock garden and on the 
raised "tulip bed," where Crocus tournefortii has opened its flowers 
that are so determined not to close up in dim weather. On the "alpine 
meadow" bed where gentians grow, Crocus banaticus has made a good clump. 
Here and there at the front of perennial beds, Crocus speciosus is just 
starting to open.

Cyclamen hederifolium is flowering beautifully in its primary site, 
under two massive Douglas firs where little else will grow, and Cyclamen 
graecum is doing well on its little raised tufa bed; a stray Cyclamen 
cilicicum f. album looks fine among the pots in the bulb house.

Most of the Sternbergia species are in the bulb house, where several 
forms of Sternbergia lutea are putting on a show, and two seed-grown 
Sternbergia clusiana have opened their huge greenish-yellow flowers; 
there is a group of Sternbergia greuteriana from wild-collected seed 
just opening there, and quite a few of that species derived from 
purchased bulbs glittering on a slightly raised, gritty bed in the open 

The succession of large Colchicum species and hybrids is about at its 
midpoint in the garden, and the smaller ones in the bulb house are also 
presenting well, from a lovely dark Colchicum bivonae (not small, of 
course) to tiny Colchicum pulchellum, and also the low-flowering, starry 
species regarded as Colchicum by some and as Merendera by others.

Some small, seldom-grown bulbs are flowering in the bulb house: 
miniature Muscari parviflorum, the only fall-flowering species in that 
genus; Narcissus elegans, which resembles N. serotinus but is smaller 
and does better for me; and Scilla intermedia (not sure what new genus 
it belongs to now). In the garden a couple of the fall-flowering Allium 
species from East Asia are appearing.

It isn't easy to build up a collection of fall bulbs, partly because 
Dutch suppliers avoid the early shipping they need. Look at the smaller 
vendors listed on the PBS website under "Sources" to find some that do 
ship early. And, of course, grow from seed whenever you can!

Jane McGary, Portland, Oregon, USA

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