Friday, August 27, 2010

Next, Please!

 Brodeaia found at Castle Rock (Mt. Diablo)

I wouldn't be a fanatical gardener if I didn't almost totally neglect the fabulous late show of Zauschnerias and Eriogonums currently dazzling the garden to ponder the age old conundrum, "What's next?"  The answer?  Why, bulbs of course!  Bulb purchasing always whips me up into a frenzy while turning the pages of my catalog or comparing bloom times in online forums. 

 'Jenny' Daffodil

They're so beautiful, the photos seem unreal- the abundance of flowers and bright colors.  It reminds me of the touch-ups and Photoshopping that takes place on models in magazines.  Can that really happen in my garden?!  Well, yes!  Allow me to offer a few tips:

Brodeaia ida-maia

I'm usually swayed by the pricing, so I tend to under-order.  Doesn't 100 bulbs sound like a lot?  Sometimes it's actually not enough!  However, I do know other folks who over-order, so my best advice would be to ask another gardener (one who will have no role in helping you plant the bulbs) if it sounds like too little or too much if you're unsure.  Close spacing can really make an impact, but not so close that the bulbs touch each other- it can lead to rot.

'Thalia' Daffodil after a rain shower

Mix in large and small bulbs together, but keep an eye out for bloom times and plant height. California native bulbs tend to bloom later, so a carpet of low-growing annuals such as Meadowfoam or Baby Blue eyes can help bridge the time between when the Manzanitas bloom and the Salvias bloom.

Calochortus superbus

If you're worried that some of the Tulips or Daffodils will not be California dreamin', catalogs usually mention if the varieties work well in the South (ie, grow in warmer climates).  Here's a few links to some online shops:

John Scheepers has selection and pretty good pricing.  They carry many natives under the "Best of the Rest" category if you're not finicky about hybrids or getting California natives from Connecticut by way of Holland.

I've never purchased from them, but Far West Bulb Farm carries the more unusual native varieties (plus they're sourced locally and ethically).

I also googled my way to Telos Rare Bulbs, who sells native, S. African and S. American varieties.  They have a blog, too to help facilitate my obsession!

I've never had luck with Tulips around here, so I haven't grown any in quite some time.  Anyone have advice to share?


  1. Deer eat tulips so - I have no experience with tulips! I love the display around the windmill in Golden Gate Park. The only bulbs I've planted are daffodils and Ithuriel's Spear. One day I'll build bulbs into my annual cycle of gardening, but I'm not there yet!

  2. Well it sounds like you have enough going on with propagation already! I always seem to miss the Tulip display in the park. I'll have to try to get over there this year.

  3. I'm with Country Mouse, deer AND gophers love tulips, so no tulips here. My neighbor grows them though (her yard is fully fenced) in free draining soil in half wine-barrels. I stick to the daffs. No, 100 isn't enough. I planted 150 last year, and barely made a dent on the slope, but the fun thing is, I have room for more! I'm drooling over the Calochortus superba though...wouldn't mind planting 150 of those, except that would likely break the piggy bank!