Wednesday, July 20, 2016
I am growing more native plants in my new garden, and I will be having a blog post on that subject in the future. One of these is calochortus, which is a bulb native to much of the western United States. There are approximately 70 species of these, according to Wikipedia, although very few of them are available for sale anywhere. You can, however, buy a few types of bulbs of these from the big bulb suppliers. That is what I did last fall--I ordered a color mix of calochortus venustus (I think) from Brent and Becky's Bulbs, but I must confess that I didn't get around to planting them until February of this year. That late planting did not seem to faze them, and the pictures above are all of those bulbs. By the way, these bulbs can be had for not too much money so it is mystery to me why more people do not grow them.
I planted these in the little bed in front of my house. That bed is mounded and has fairly sandy soil. It is in full sun. These are the sorts of conditions that calochortus like. In the places they grow in the west, they would be dry in the summer, although I am pretty sure that a little sprinkler action will not kill them. You certainly would not want them to be completely soaking wet all summer after they have gone dormant, though. I grew some of these in the front border of my old garden for many years, in an area that received no supplemental water in the summer, and they did quite well there.
I recently acquired some Calochortus tolmiei from Seven Oaks Native Nursery in Albany, Oregon. Seven Oaks is a wholesale nursery which grows many unusual native plants. In addition to tolmiei they grow other calochortus, and I am sure I will be acquiring some of those others in the future. Another good source for calochortus is Telos Rare Bulbs. I will probably be ordering some from her in the future. I would recommend her blog post on calochortus.
Calochortus can be seen growing wild in many part of the west. I belong to two Facebook groups, one for California wildflowers, and the other for Oregon wildflowers, and both of these groups have constant postings of beautiful pictures of calochortus. These bulbs come in many different forms and colors and I am constantly amazed at their variety. Even though there are these many forms and species of calochortus, there does not seem to be much seed being collected, nor much growing of these plants commercially except for what I have mentioned above. I would hope that gardeners in the west would realize how great these natives are and attempt to grow them.
Calochortus have sort of long skinny foliage and stems, so they grow very easily through other plants or among grasses. That is the way they grow in the wild. They mingle very easily with other plants in the garden, particularly those that enjoy similar conditions.