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Archive for the ‘Bulbs’ Category

When I went to work for a large wholesale perennial grower I was surprised by the diversity of material that was sold. They wanted to extend their sales season by selling not only perennials but include other related plant material such as Heather, herbs, small shrubs and in the earliest spring small bulb which you could buy in bloom at the grocer. Within the bulbs sold there were Crocus, small Daffodils, Snowdrops and Iris. The Reticulated Iris (Iris reticulata) were a brilliant blue and always sold out quickly.

The classic Iris reticulata (Reticulated Iris) ia a welcome shot of brilliant blue in the garden.

The classic Iris reticulata (Reticulated Iris) ia a welcome shot of brilliant blue in the garden.

Reticulated Iris are in a subgenus Hermodactyloides which include other closely related species. They are all bulbous with netted tunics(coverings), which is where the latin name ‘reticulata’ comes from meaning netted or networked. All of the species originate in western Asia ranging from Turkey south through Lebanon through into Iraq and Iran, to the east into the Caucasus and Transcaucasia and into the former USSR.  They live in areas high in areas just below the snow line down into the lower mountain meadows and on to rocky hillside where the water runs off and they bake in the summer heat while they are dormant like many of famous bulbous plants of the area.

Iris "George' is a standout form ith its rich coloring.

Iris "George' is a standout form ith its rich coloring.

There are several color forms of Iris reticulata ranging from the almost  icy white ‘Natascha’ through the light blue ‘Cantab’ into the violet ‘Lovely Liza’ and into deep purple  of ‘George’ and ‘Purple Gem’. Other species are sometimes seen in collections but are harder to find at garden centers. Here in Victoria we have a thriving, large garden community as well as many people who are interested in alpine gardens, it makes it possible to see a wider range of Reticulated Iris forms.

The exotic colored Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin' has wonderfully reticulated petals.

The exotic colored Iris 'Katherine Hodgkin' has wonderfully reticulated petals.

Several species have added their coloring and petal form to new hybrids in the Reticulated Iris group. One of the more spectacular of these is Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ is a cross of Iris winogradowii with its pale yellow flowers and Iris histrioides which is pale blue. Iris histrioides  and histrio, both blue play important roles in new crosses that are being made, the both have similarly narrow petals and blue coloring. The markings on these species tends to be dark blue with little yellow seen if at all.

Iris reticulata "Alida' has a distinct solid pale blue coloring with a dash of lemon in its throat.

Iris reticulata "Alida' has a distinct solid pale blue coloring with a dash of lemon in its throat.

I am fortunate that every year at this time I can go to a grocer and buy a tiny pot with several Iris reticulata bulbs blooming in it, enjoy the flowers then plant them out in the garden. We are also fortunate that these plants are undemanding and give us such joy at this time of the year. the most important thing Reticulated Iris need is well-drained soil and a situation where they can dry out during their summer dormancy, this can be created by planting them on a slope or giving them extra gritty soil. Plant the bulbs 10-12 cm. (4-5 in.) deep and about 3 cm.(1 in.) apart.  They grow  1-15 cm. (4-6 in.) tall. they are quite hardy and rate zones 5 -29 c.(-20 f.)through 9. With extra mulch it is likely that they can survive even colder locations.

Tough Reticulated Iris flowers are not effected by winter freezes or snow piled up around them.

Tough Reticulated Iris flowers are not effected by winter freezes or snow piled up around them.

These are small plants that usually produce 1 to 2 flowers per bulb. Mass planting is the best way to display these Reticulated Iris. They are most often seen in container plantings, alpine gardens or rock gardens. Although they are tiny in statue Reticulated Iris are good cut flowers and have an unusual, delicate violet-like fragrance. They can be grown from seed but this is a slow process as it takes about 5 years to produce a flowering bulb. If they are in a favorable place the bulbs can be divided to thin the bulbs out every 2 years. The new bulbs can be moved to other places or massed where they are. One problem we have here are slugs which eat the tender flowers, so remember this when choosing a site for these tiny gems.

The slug damage to this Iris danfordiae makes it all most unrecognizable.

The slug damage to this Iris danfordiae makes it all most unrecognizable.

Marticulate this:

The Pacific Bulb Society page on these plants:  http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/ReticulataIrises

A fascinating site on reticulata with its many forms and colors: http://www.reticulatas.com/

……..Looking forward to seeing you here soon……..

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As I look out my window today I remember what it was like at this time of year; it is the middle of February and still the snow is falling and the piles of it are getting higher and higher. Back then any sunny day would make me anxious for spring to come with the brightly colored bulbs of yellow, purple, blue and even white poking through patches of bare soil. Yes I am speaking of the first flowers of this early spring here which have a big impact. The Crocus are running amuck through the city in the parks and yards and have even gone rogue in some places! I offer up to you the  group of Crocus hybrids sometimes called ‘Dutch Crocus’ to brighten your very early spring.

 These Dutch Crocus Hybrids have incredibly huge flowers, yet have a delicate quality.

These Dutch Crocus Hybrids have incredibly huge flowers, yet have a delicate quality.

There are about 80 different species of Crocus with many subspecies and varieties. Of that group only about 30 species are regularly grown by collectors and us regular people.There are 2 distinct groups ones which flowers in spring and those which bloom in autumn. Of the autumn group we would be familiar with Saffron Crocus which produce Saffron for culinary uses, the spice comes from collecting the stamens from the flowers. Crocus species originate from a large area from north Africa into south-central Europe all of Italy and eastern Europe to Russia and down through former Yugoslavia and Greece, crossing through Turkey and as far east as Afghanistan and south into the Middle East Asia. .

 Crocus 'Pickwick' is my favorite Dutch Crocus with its gloriously striped blossoms.

Crocus 'Pickwick' is my favorite Dutch Crocus with its gloriously striped blossoms.

Most of us are more familiar with the spring blooming named hybrids which are commonly called Dutch Crocus. This group of Crocus have been developed over several hundred years of careful selection of the best flower qualities. ‘Dutch’ Crocus are a group of hybrids which are primarily made up of crosses made from 5 species of which the 3 predominant are C. vernus(with the largest blooms), chrysanthus(color) and biflorus.

 Here Crocus have taken over a lawn at this time of year and have revert to a color which is similar to what they look in the wild.

Here Crocus have taken over a lawn at this time of year and have revert to a color which is similar to what they look in the wild.

No one really knows were these 3 species of Crocus began to hybridise as it is possible their paths crossed in the wild. Vernus is from the Pyrenees in Europe into Yugoslavia, Chrysanthus also is found in Yugoslavia Romania, Greece and into southern Turkey. From there biflorus is found in southern Greece into Turkey and as far east as northern Iran. We do know that several species of bulbs ended up being sent to Carolus Clusius at the Botanical Garden in Leiden in the mid 16th century.

 

The golden yellow color of Dutch Crocus early in the spring is one of the gaudiest sights in the garden.

The golden-yellow color of Dutch Crocus early in the spring is one of the gaudiest sights in the garden.

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder (1573-1621) specialized in painting flowers and included a golden Dutch Crocus in one of his paintings. By 1629 a yellow Crocus had made their way to England and were being written about.  By the early 1700s lists of bulbs were carefully cataloged with their prices by sellers of the product and more color forms we re becoming known.

 

 

 Crocus 'Remembrance' is an old clone with one of the darkest and richest colors.

Crocus 'Remembrance' is an old clone with one of the darkest and richest colors.

All Crocus species are generally easy to grow and adaptable to most soil types. The one thing Crocus hate is overly wet stagnant soil which causes the bulb to rot. To improve soil drainage add sharp sand.  If Crocus like where they are growing they will multiply by growing many tiny new bulbils which can be removed and replanted. Crocus should be planted at least 15cm(6 in.) apart and 5-8 cm(2-3 in.) deep in the ground. It is best to plant or replant bulbs in the fall 1-2 months before frosts come to the garden, this gives the bulbs a chance to start growing their roots firmly into the ground.

 

This is Crocus 'Snow Bunting', a cheery flower in which each petal base is bright yellow.

This is Crocus 'Snow Bunting', a cheery flower in which each petal base is bright yellow.

 

Dutch Crocus are fairly hardy and take about zone 5 (-29 c. or-20 f.) – temperatures with ease and if you give your plants so extra protection or more snow they can take even colder situations.  Crocus grow well in gardens and can be used as edging plants, accents or specimens in a winter garden. Crocus make excellent container plants and can be transferred into the garden later if you like. Another thing they can be used for is naturalizing in lawns and grassy areas, this is because they will grow and decline into dormancy before you need to do your first mowing. Here there are several parks where the plants have spread into the lawns and look spectacular at this time of the year, later people are unaware that they are walking over the areas where the bulbs have gone dormant.

 

Pacific Bulb Society have very detailed pages on many Crocus species: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Crocus

 

Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder was a fantastic painter of flowers and floral displays: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrosius_Bosschaert

The Wiki page on Crocus is interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crocus

……….Hope to see you around these pages soon………..

 

 

 

 

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A bright sunny day always induces me in get out of the house and investigate local gardens and other favorite places. One never knows what will be spring up from the rocky crevices here.  Bright spots of color are seen in berries that have remained over the winter, the earliest buds of bulbs and other winter bloom plants add to interest to the trip. From an edging of green leaves I spot some delicate Cyclamen Coum flowers stick out, I look more closely and see their tiny rounded leaves also there.

 Cyclamen coum is typical of the species with it's slightly mottled leaves.

Cyclamen coum is typical of the species with it's slightly mottled leaves.

Cyclamen coum grow in a wide-ranging area which can divided into 2.  The main area is focused around the Black Sea and covers in the west Bulgaria though Turkey moving east into Caucasus into Crimea. The other area is on the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey moving along south through Lebanon into Israel.  The name Cyclamen comes from ‘Kylos'(Greek) which means circle and is thought to be referring to the round corms(tubers) which the plant grows from. Coum comes from ‘Kos’ (Greek) which refers to the Greek island Kos which is found in the Aegean Sea.  Because of its large range this plant has been divided into 2 subspecies subp. coum and subp. caucasicum.

Masses of brightly colored Cyclamen coum flowers are produced from tiny plants.

Masses of brightly colored Cyclamen coum flowers are produced from tiny plants.

It is surprising that Cyclamen coum are not as well-known as they should be. Of all the Cyclamen species this one is the most adaptable, it is surprisingly hardy. If it is in a good spot it will happily sow its seeds and soon you will have a tiny forest of new plants.  As they are more easy to propagate it is surprising that they are not more commonly seen for sale at the local garden centers or nurseries, maybe it has to do with the time of year that they are most showy…. RIGHT NOW!

These tiny volunteer Cyclamen coum seedlings are blooming amongst other later growing plants

These tiny volunteer Cyclamen coum seedlings are blooming amongst other later growing plants

The foliage of Cyclamen coum is somewhat variable in it coloring and it is all pleasing to the eye. Leaves range from pure dark smooth green into almost completely silvery to whitish. The leaves are often stitched or edged making this one of the more attractive, although, small-leaved plants at this time of year. Flower colors generally range from a strong magenta through pinks and into almost white, all will have a deep plum blotch at the base of the petals. There is a rare completely white form called Cyclamen coum subsp. coum f.(forma.) albissimum which very beautiful.

 The perfectly edged leaves of this Cyclamen coum is tucked in a protected location which easily viewed by all walking by.

The perfectly edged leaves of this Cyclamen coum is tucked in a protected location which easily viewed by all walking by.

All hardy Cyclamen species like the same conditions which are easy to replicate. Cyclamen coum generally likes a dappled site with well-drained soil. Here very good drainage is important as rot is one problem we can have with our extended wet winters. When planting a tuber barely cover it with soil. Seedlings can be transplanted and will bloom within 1 or 2 seasons although they might not look like their parent in markings or flower coloring. Top-dress with a thin layer of fine leaf mold of mulch every year.  Always plant the small tubers as soon as you get them.

Here younger and older Cyclamen coum are growing together to make a tapestry of foliage and flower color.

Here younger and older Cyclamen coum are growing together to make a tapestry of foliage and flower color.

Cycleman coum is remarkably hardy and is known to survive in and thrive in gardens where it regularly reaches -33 c.(-28 f.) or zone 4 during the winter. In warm spells it is not unusual to see the brightly colored flowers peaking through the snow. It is a good idea to mark the place you are growing these plants as it is likely that they will go completely dormant during the summer, such is the case here.  Here I see them growing under deep canopies of conifers and also happily on a sun baked slope.

Here Cyclamen coum is blooming with the equally tiny Galanthus nivalis.

Here Cyclamen coum is blooming with the equally tiny Galanthus nivalis.

Cyclamen coum grow to 10cm (4 in.) high and about the same width. They are perfect subjects for alpine and rockery gardens, winter gardens, woodland, mass planting, container plants for winter interest and deer or rabbit resistant gardens. Their tiny flowers are fragrant and make a charming addition to a floral arrangement.

Comparing Cyclamens:

The sub species deciphered: http://www.cyclamen.org/coum.htm

How to grow and propagate the tiny plants: http://www.sunfarm.com/plantlist/cycons.htm

A look at some of the other species which are grown: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/CyclamenSpeciesOne

……….See You Really Soon I hope……….

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This week it has taken a turn for fall the sun shines and the nights are much cooler. Finally there are touches of color developing in the leaves of trees, in the next few weeks the show of yellow, red and orange will be at their peak here. Gardeners are starting to remove spent annuals and cut down yellowing and bedraggled perennials. Some grasses such as Miscanthus are blooming while others are finnished waitng for the winter rains. Several plants are blooming as it is coming into thier summer, these are some of the bulbs from South Africa. One of the most showy is Nerine bowdenii (Guernsey Lily) and how beautiful it is.

The pink coloring of Nerine bowdenii makes it a favorite flower amoung many who grow it.

The pink coloring of Nerine bowdenii makes it a favorite flower amoung many who grow it.

Nerines are all found in Africa with 23 0f the species found in South Africa. There is some confusion as to exactly how many species there ranging between 25 and 30. We do know the plant Nerine is named for the Greek word ‘Nereis’ for sea nymph. Bowdenii comes from Athelstan Hall Cornish Bowden (1871-1942) who was born in Devon and went on to become the Government Land Surveyor of the Cape Colony which later became South Africa. In 1903 he brought his namesake plant back to England.

The strap-like foliage of these Nerine bowdenii bulbs is blended in with Acorus leaves.

The strap-like foliage of these Nerine bowdenii bulbs is blended in with Acorus leaves.

Nerine bowdenii is considered to be the most hardy of the known Nerine species. This is because it was originally found high(3000m or nearly 10000 ft.) in the  Drakensburg Mountains in north Natal. There it flowers in February to May. It is often found growing in cracks of  the stony cliffs and where a little soil and leaf mold has accumulated over time.

Nerine bowdenii is perfectly planted in the stony outcropping of the 'Terrace Gardens' at Government House in Victoria.

Nerine bowdenii is perfectly planted in the stony outcropping of the 'Terrace Gardens' at Government House in Victoria.

Many South African plants are relatively new to gardening and have been thought to be more tender than they have turned out to be. Here in Victoria and in the southern corner of British Columbia we have a very similar climate to parts of South Africa and have been lucky to enjoy a wide range of interesting plants which grow there.  We have a mild winter which is damp and warm to hot summers with a prolonged drought which is perfect for many bulbs such as Nerine bowdenii.

This clump of Nerine bowdenii is in the dappled shade at Finnerty Gardens.

This clump of Nerine bowdenii is in the dappled shade at Finnerty Gardens.

Nerine bowdenii is a fairly easy and adaptable plant to grow. Plant the bulbs close together with part of the bulb exposed like it is found in the wild. Grow it in any rich soil with good drainage so the bulbs do not sit it overly wet soil for long periods. When planting bulbs it is a good idea to add some bone meal for development of strong healthy roots. It is said that this species of Nerine can take -10(14f) temperatures easily. If you live in a colder climate grow your plants in a container which you may choose to sink into the ground and lift late in the fall to over-winter inside.

The typical Nerine bowdenii floral scape has up to a dozen flowers which are usually in a pink shade.

The typical Nerine bowdenii floral scape has up to a dozen flowers which are usually in a pink shade.

Several named selects can be found of Nerine bowdenii which are in pink shades as well as a white form. This plant is about 60cm(2ft) tall and has proved to be an excellent long lasting cut flower. The strap-like foliage is similar to that of Agapanthus and is an attractive mid green color. Propagation is by division of the bulbs or planting the fleshy seeds as soon as they become ripe. From seed to blooming bulb takes up to 6 years.

The bright pink Nerine bowdenii flowers against the maroon shades of this foliage is quite spectacular.

The bright pink Nerine bowdenii flowers against the maroon shades of this foliage is quite spectacular.

Noticing Nerines:

Pacific Bulb Society page on Nerines: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/nerine

Wiki has a good page on Nerine bowdenii: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerine_bowdenii

Nerines in South Africa: http://www.bulbsociety.org/GALLERY_OF_THE_WORLDS_BULBS/GRAPHICS/Nerine/Nerineprimer.html

…………….Hope to see you near here soon…………………

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When I was growing up few herbs would grow in my chilly zone 3(-40c or f) city. One daring plant which survived quite nicely was a member of the Allium family and bloomed with mauve papery flowers. Later I saw wild Allium growing along the banks of the Fraser River near Lytton.  Here there are not only wild species of Alliums but many ornamental types growing in gardens and parks.  One group which catches everyone’s eye are the Giant (flowering) Onions.

One of many forms of Giant Onion, Allium 'Purple Sensation' shows up well against the golden foliage.

One of many forms of Giant Onion, Allium 'Purple Sensation' shows up well against the golden foliage.

There are nearly 900 species of Allium with about 150 of them coming from Turkey, and 40 from the California area.  Giant Onions are often a natural, accidental or  planned crossing of species. Some of the many species which lend their attributes such as  height, color and flower density include giganteum, hollandicum(aflatunense), cristophii, macleanii, karataviense .  Many named varieties have been selected, the process is slow and can take up to 20 years before they ready too be sold to the public.

Allium 'Globemaster' has densely packed mauve flowers on strong stems.

Allium 'Globemaster' has densely packed mauve flowers on strong stems.

The first Giant Onion which was seen in gardens was its namesake Allium giganteum which can grow up to 1.8m(6ft) tall and did really create a sensation. It has been found that such large flowers on wiry stem are susceptible to wind damage and are really too big for most gardens. From this time there have been growers busily crossing species to create shorter plants with large flowers and preferably nicer leaves. Most Giant Onions are between 45cm -1.2m(18-48in) tall.

Allium 'Globus' is only 45cm(18in) tall and was bred to be shorter than other Giant Onions.

Allium 'Globus' is only 45cm(18in) tall and was bred to be shorter than other Giant Onions.

No one can not be impressed with these stately and impressive flower displays.  Giant Onions are very versatile as plants which is why they are so often seen in public gardens. If you like butterflies and bees these are great magnets for them.  The tiny flowers actually are fragrant and I don’t mean in an oniony way.

After the flowers of Giant Onions are done, the seedheads are very attractive.

After the flowers of Giant Onions are done, the seedheads are very attractive.

We are lucky to have the opportunity to grow these wonderful plants. Giant Onions want the simple things in life, full sun, fertile soil which is well-drained and water in the spring and early summer when they are growing their most vigorously.  They offer the most impact when planted in groups. Plants these bulbs in the early fall.  They should be planted 10-15cm(4-6in) deep and should be spaced the same distance apart. They can take a fair amount of cold down to a chilly -20c(-10f) or rated as zones 6 through 10. In colder regions you can lift and store the bulbs over winter.

Allium 'Mount Everest'  looks wonderful with the green Crocosmia leaves in  the background.

Allium 'Mount Everest' looks wonderful with the green Crocosmia leaves in the background.

Giant Onions are drought tolerant, great for here where we have several months over the summer and fall with little rain. Another notable thing which is useful about them is that deer and rodents are said to not like them. These plants slowly multiply, so you can lift them after several years and divide them.

This wonderful combination of bright mauve Allium against a smoky burgundy and the wine tinged cream flowers is one that I have always liked.

This wonderful combination of bright mauve Allium against a smoky burgundy and the wine tinged cream flowers is one that I have always liked.

Giant Onion flowers are great against many types of other foliage, blue-green, burgundy, chartreuse, gray and just plain green become wonderful backgrounds and I have seen many inspiring color combinations. I am sure you can think up some stunning combinations for your garden.

On the great Allium hunt:

A good listing of species and forms are found here: http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/BigBallAlliums

Wiki has lots of interesting information on Alliums: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allium

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This week I was planning to do a group of three related species. There was so much information on one species and not enough on another and I have changed my mind, some plants deserve an article all their own. The plant I have chosen is not very common here, but when you see it you will want it. Just yesterday in my research I stumbled across a entry about how this plant has been stolen from a well known public garden here in B.C. and the effect that can have on other people including students. The plant I am referring to is the ‘Crown Imperial‘ (Fritillaria imperialis).

Fritillaria imperialis is also known as the 'Crown Imperial' or Kaiser's Crown.

Fritillaria imperialis is also known as the 'Crown Imperial' or Kaiser's Crown.

The Crown Imperial comes to us by the route so many plants have followed, through Constantinople, in 1576  a plant was collected in Persia. From there a sample was taken by Clusius to the Imperial Collection in Vienna. In Vienna it is said to be given it’s common name by Alphonsus Pancus because it was grown in the Imperial Gardens there. Another version says it was named because it has ‘the true shape of the Imperial Crown’.

The most common color of the Crown Imperial is this brilliant orange shade which is a standout in the garden at this time of year.

The most common color of the Crown Imperial is this brilliant orange shade which is a standout in the garden at this time of year.

Fritillaria imperialis are mainly native to south east Turkey but is found through western Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and finally resting in Kashmir. It is now found at 1000-3000 m(3300-9000ft) growing on rocky slopes and in the scrub.  In earlier times the orange-red blossoms where used as a source of dye coloring for the rugs which were made in the area.

Fritillaria imperialis 'Lutea' the yellow Imperial Crown.

Fritillaria imperialis 'Lutea' the yellow Imperial Crown.

Many historians feel that the Fritillaria imperialis was the plant refered to in the Greek myth of Hyacinthus.  Hyacinthus  was a beautiful young man, (possibly a Spartan Prince) who the god Apollo admired.  It was said that Apollo accidentally killed Hyacinthus when they were taking turns throwing a discus. Hyacinthus wanted to impress Apollo by running and catching the discus and instead was struck by it and died. Another form of the myth says that Zephyr, god of the west wind was feuding with Apollo over Hyacinthus,  when Apollo threw the discus Zephyr blew it off course which caused the accident.

These Crown Imperials have been located on the long annual show border in Beacon Hill Park for several years.

These Crown Imperials have been located on the long annual show border in Beacon Hill Park for several years.

As Crown Imperials have been in cultivation such a long time, several varieties have been found and are now available to grow. Fritillaria imperialis ‘Lutea’ is yellow and is the oldest and dates back to 1665. Other forms are ‘Aurora’ which is orange-red, Rubra is the red form, ‘Premier’ is noted to be pale tangerine with purple tinged veins, ‘Argenteo Variegata’ has leaves which are edged in white and somber orange flowers and  ‘Orange Brilliant’ is said to be a rusty orange. All Fritillaria  have an unpleasant scent which people have said ranges from raw meat to wet fur to musty smelling, this helps to repel rodents who commonly decimate bulbs by eating them.  I have read several sources who say the scent really does work as rodents do not touch these bulbs.

After blooming the flowers of Crown Imperial turn up and produce these interesting, large seed capsules.

After blooming the flowers of Crown Imperial turn up and produce these interesting, large seed capsules.

Fritillaria imperialis have bulbs which are noticeably bowl-shaped and because of this should be planted on their side so water will not sit in and rot them.  the bulbs should be planted  at least 10cm(4 in) deep and the spacing should be 22cm to 30cm(9 to 12 in). These bulbs do not like being moved except when the clumps become big enough to split up. If you live in a cold climate it might be a good idea to plant them in a container and then lift it for storage over the cold months.

Many Fritillaria have an unusual blocky shape and Crown Imperials are no exception.

Many Fritillaria flowers have an unusual blocky shape and Crown Imperials are no exception.

To get the best bloom give Fritillaria imperialis full sun during their growing season. Like many other bulbs they need lots of water when they are growing and very little when they are dormant. They like well-drained, rich soil with plenty of grit to assist drainage during wetter seasons. These impressive plants are quite hardy and rate between zones 5 through 9, -23 c(-10 f).

More about Crown Imperials:

The Wiki page is a good place to start:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritillaria_imperialis

Naming and history of plant: http://books.google.com/books?id=2AknHP_NRBgC&pg=PA74&sig=sdRm87XtnjBYNRRPGrhIvpGgzlI&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false

The story of the stolen bulb and how it can effect us: http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/potd/2007/03/fritillaria_imperialis_rubra_1.php

See you soon in a garden….

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When I was doing my Horticulture practicum in North Vancouver I saw many plants which were new to me. Some other plants were different, they grew more vigorously in the mild climate. I was introduced to some commonly grown plants which I was first seeing in a more wild form. One day when we taking a turn about the garden I spied a strange form of Tulip and asked what it was; I was told it was a species Tulip…much more delicate then the robust forms that are common at this time. I have been enamored of the dainty species Tulips ever since.

Tulipa kaufmanniana 'Johann Strauss'

Tulipa kaufmanniana 'Johann Strauss'

Many bulbs we are familiar with originate in the mountains of Central Asia and travel through Iran and Turkey and end up in eastern and southern Europe. Tulips fall exactly into this pattern. The species Tulips I am showing you today come mainly come from an area of Central Asia which is called the Tian Shan (Sky Mountains). It is part of the Himalayan orogenic belt which was formed when the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates collided and creates the highest mountain ranges in the world. It is also through this area that the Silk Roads of ancient commerce travelled.

 This group of Tulipa praetans are found high up in the Terrace Gardens at Government House.

This group of Tulipa praetans are found high up in the Terrace Gardens at Government House.

Tulips have come to us from those same commerce exchanges, this time from the Turkish court of Suleiman the Magnificent to the court of the Holy Roman Empire. They were brought by Ambassador Ogier Ghiselin de Bubecq. He had seen the flowers in his travels to Constantinople in 1554. We know the flowers grew in Augsburg in 1559 as they were described by Conrad Gessner. After that there was no turning back with the popularity of the flowers and they were soon in cultivation in the Nederlands. They became a symbol of luxury and were much  coveted by the wealthy.

Tulipa turkestanica has small starry flowers and a lax habit.

Tulipa turkestanica has small starry flowers and a lax habit.

Many Tulip species have been crossed with others, in some cases this happens in the wild where species ranges of growth overlap. In most cases crosses are done to produce larger flowers with strong stems and create new color ranges. Tulips cover a rainbow of colors from nearly blue through reds, oranges and yellows to creamy white and back into plums and violets. Every shade and variation within these colors is seen.

Tulipa clusiana var. 'Chrysantha', a form of the delicate Lady Tulip.

Tulipa clusiana var. 'Chrysantha', a form of the delicate Lady Tulip.

The orginal name for Tulip is leleh which is Persian. The French Tulipe is from the Turkish ‘tulbend’ which means turban.Turkish tulbend is corrupted form of Persian dulband also meaning turban. Tulipa is the Latinate form of this Turkish word. In English the word first appeared as Tuliphant and later changed to Tulip. Are you confused now?

Tulipa greigii 'Chopin', all greigii's have beautifully marked leaves.

Tulipa greigii 'Chopin', all greigii's have beautifully marked leaves.

These speices Tulips come from mountainous areas or the vast Steppes of Central Asia. many grow on rocky slopes or in scrub, others by streams which run early in the year and later dry up. Other species come from woodlands and are slightly more lush in their growth. they dot the slopes and grssy lands like jewels blooming briefly in the cool spring sunshine.

Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' is also known as saxitilis and comes from the island of Crete. This is a light color form.

Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' is also known as saxitilis and comes from the island of Crete. This is a light color form.

We are very fortunate that  many species Tulips are easy to find and as equally adaptable to grow in our gardens. Always buy your bulbs from a reputable dealer who does not get them from wild collected supplies. It is very important we protect all species of plants growing in the wild.

Tulipa kolpakowskiana  has a beautifully colored bud.

Tulipa kolpakowskiana has a beautifully colored bud.

It is best to grow all Tulips in rich, sandy well draining soil. The best flowers and foliage are produced by having a site which is in full sun. They need most watering during the spring when they are vigorously growing. Tulips do not like excess wetness when they are dormant over the summer into the winter. after flowering they should be left while their leaves die down and wither, after this the bulbs can be lifted and stored for later replanting. In warmer climates bulbs can be planted in the fall. Tulips generally are rated at zone 4-5  -25c(-20f).

Tulipa bakeri, a darker form.

Tulipa bakeri, a darker form.

Tulips make excellent container plants. For most impact plant bulbs in close groups. Species Tulips are generally small in overall height and should be placed near the front of a border. the are perfect in an alpine or rock garden.

Interesting Links For You:

Pacific Bulb Society has an excellent site for searching out new bulbs:http://www.pacificbulbsociety.org/pbswiki/index.php/Tulipa

Tulip history and the madness which happened:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

Central Asia, where so many of our treasured species come from:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Asia

Until we meet again along the flowering path…

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