Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Joining the minor leagues!

Narcissus hedraeanthus
 I have always found it a trifle condescending to refer to the "minor" bulbs of spring--those tiny morsels that brighten our bleak, winter-tired gardens with their prismatic flowers...If these brave little gems are "minor" then, heck! I'll happily join the minor leagues. This is the first year that Narcissus hedraeanthus bloomed for me in my garden. It has given delight way out of scale from its size, or the modest cost from Illahe Nursery and Rare Bulbs in Oregon...It may take a few years to build up stock and have it carpeting my meadow as the various forms of Narcissus bulbocodium do at Savill Gardens...
Colchicum szovitsii

I think I almost have more colchicums that bloom in the spring than in the fall--although they have a bit more competition this time of year. I have seen pictures of this tiny pink gem blooming by the thousand on alpine pastures in Western Asia--but after a few years it has consented to send out a second flower....yeah, man!

Bulbocodium vernum
 There are lusty clumps of this growing all over Denver Botanic Gardens--so I was relieved to have developed my own robust colony of a dozen or so plants that liven up my own rock garden: this brash pink in March really stands out in the garden: it's been blooming for weeks! Although right now it's an even more ragged robin.I've always been curious what connection this generic name has with the specific epithet of the similarly named Narcissus bulbocodium? Can anyone shed light on that conundrum?

Crocus biflorus v. pulchricolor
Some years the first crocus will open quite early in January (and I think we may have even had one out late this last January) but February was so snowy and cold that the crocuses only kicked in mid-March and they are still going strong. This is a new acquisition--a lovely miniature biflorus from Turkey, with a soft, uniform purple shading.
Ornithogalum balansae
 Russell Stafford, of Odyssey Bulbs, (another excellent source of rare bulbs) identified this for me--I'd forgotten to log it onto my database ten or more years ago when I received it from Brent and Becky's bulbs--yet another source of my addiction. Every one of these stars of Bethlehem have produced more and more flowers every year: although it doesn't seem to be seeding around or clumping up to propagate it, I wonder?

Iris 'Katharine Hodgkin'
I can never have enough of the Reticulate iris group: they seem to love our gardens (provided they get some water in the winter and spring)...and this strange creature is especially adaptable. I have blogged at length about her on several occasions...but can't resist sharing one more picture....

Minor bulbs----harrumph! They deliver major delight!



  1. Your post on 'Katherine Hodgkin' on the DBG blog has motivated me. I think I'm going to order some rare reticulatas from Janis Ruskans this year. And, if I'm bothering to send a check that far, I might as well order some other goodies too...

  2. Every time I see Bulbocodium vernum in flower, I have this temptation to iron out the wrinkles in the petals. Narcissus hedraeanthus and Ornithogalum balansae are delightful.

    Mark McDonough

  3. You are welcome to come to Colorado any old day, Mr. McDonough, and iron my Bulbocodiums! I better get my order into Janis before you buy everything Susan!

  4. Panayoti, Are you sure of the identification of the Ornithogalum balansae? Photos on the internet show leaves that look different. Although I know it is not Leucocrinum montanum, your photo reminds me of your native sand lily. Do you have Leucocrinum in your garden? I might try growing sand lily from seed next year.


  5. I am not 100% sure of the ID of my Ornithogalum, James: I received two species ten or more years ago from Brent and Becky's (they no longer offer either of them), and one of the two has prospered and that's the one I photographed. I have their old catalogues and should go look up and see (I do remember one was balansae--and Russell Stafford thought that's what this one was). It does look absurdly like Leucocrinum--which is still abundant around Denver and even quite high up in the foothills on warm exposures. I love that plant--it used to grow in vacant lots not too far from where I grew up, and I would pick the flowers as a little boy and smell them and admire it. Those vacant lots are now all mega-McMansions. I have tried transplanting it--HUGE roots--not very successfully--but my friend Jim Borland has some happy plants in his xeriscape (makes me jealous!). I suspect it will be VERY slow from seed.


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