Gardeners' Dirt: Come see new bulb garden at VEG
By BY DORIS MARTINAK - Victoria County Master Gardener Edited by Charla Borchers Leon
April 5, 2012 at midnight
Updated April 4, 2012 at 11:05 p.m.
According to the voluminous Master Gardener. Handbook, "A true bulb is a complete or nearly complete miniature of a plant encased in fleshy, modified leaves called scales, which contain food reserves."
A bulb is an underground storage structure or simply called a seed, kind of like a potato. A real surprise to me was learning that while they are not true bulbs, plants that grow from corms, rhizomes, tubers and tuberous roots, are all considered as belonging to the bulb family. That does cover quite a bit of ground.
The handbook goes on to mention that most bulbs are generally either spring-flowering bulbs, which would be January to May or the June to September group of summer-flowering bulbs.
New bulb garden
For the educational benefit of the community, the Master Gardeners have installed a new bulb garden at Victoria Educational Gardens. The area, which formerly held the experimental rose garden on the south side, has been divided into several smaller gardens. At the present time, there are 14 to 15 different bulbs in various stages of growth. A few are dormant.
Snowflakes, freesia, ground orchid, blood lily
The snowflakes, freesias and ground orchid are blooming away. Some, like the African blood lily, probably will make a later appearance.
The blood lily is a very interesting plant. Its bloom looks a bit like cotton candy and is also called the powderpuff lily because of its puffy flowerhead. It has toxic characteristics that could affect children and pets, so don't plant it in harm's way.
Several years ago, I bought a potted blood lily. Thinking it had died, I left the pot with some others under our sweet gum tree. I spied something red blooming under the tree and it was the blood lily. The flower was very pretty, different and held the bloom for quite some time.
It's in the amaryllis family and sometimes these bulbs like to get comfortable where they are planted before they bloom. But it's worth the wait.
Red and yellow spider lilies (Lycoris)
The red and yellow spider lilies, otherwise known as Lycoris, are both in the bulb garden. Hopefully, they will bloom the first year. They can have a mind of their own and don't always bloom every year. When they do, the stem comes straight out of the ground minus leaves.
In "Heirloom Gardening in the South," by William C. Welch and Greg Grant, there is a very interesting story concerning the original lycoris brought to the United States.
According to this story, when Commodore Perry opened the Port of Japan, a Capt. Robert brought three lycoris bulbs to a Mrs. Simmons, who lived in North Carolina. Even though the bulbs were in extremely dry condition, they were planted.
It was not until the war with the U.S. some time later that they showed any sign of life. The authors went on to tell that the increase from those three bulbs has been passed from friend to friend and spread across that state.
Bulbs in other areas of VEG
When visiting Victoria Educational Gardens, take notice of plants in garden areas other than the bulb garden that are indeed bulbs.
White spider lily, iris, crinum, amaryllis
Such plants might include the spider lily, (Hymenocalli) with its long strappy green foliage and white blooms as well as iris, crinum and amaryllis among others.
Most of these bulbs will multiply. Some bulbs, such as the crinum, produce little bulblets on the outside of the main bulb. These can be taken off and planted to produce new plants.
Bulbs return, multiply
Bulbs are a valuable addition to any landscape since once planted they usually continue coming back every year and multiply. When selecting your bulbs, buy the best bulbs available. It will pay off in blooms and growth. Follow the planting directions for each variety or specific bulb.
Purchase from reliable sources
High-quality bulbs should be available from local garden centers. Church festivals quite often have bulbs at plant booths. I purchased oxblood lilies, crinum bulbs, amaryllis and iris at church festivals.
The Master Gardener plant sales are a very good place to find these types of plants. One never knows what individual Master Gardeners will bring to the sales, as they are such a diverse group with their own interests and specialties in gardening.
Further information from experts
I strongly recommend the above referenced book, "Heirloom Gardening in the South," and "Perennial Garden Color," by William C. Welch.
These are both wonderful sources for colorful gardening, and particularly gardens enhanced by the beauty of blooming bulbs.
Come on out to VEG and take a look at the new bulb garden. In the meantime, here is a thought:
"A garden is a friend you can visit any time."
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.