My Mediterranean climate greenhouse is ablaze with color from Romulea to Oxalis, Tropaeolum to Gladiolus, but the very first thing I notice when I open the door is a delectable scent. It comes from the most unpreposessing plant, so demure in its appearance you might even overlook it. It is Muscari muscarimi. Muscari, often called 'Grape Hyacinths' are from the countries that ring the Mediterranean, and there are about 60 species, most of which are fragrant. The prize for fragrance, though, is taken by this little species from southwestern Turkey and some of the Greek islands. It is seen here to the left. Also from Greece and Turkey is M. macrocarpum, with bright yellow flowers and a heady scent. Here it is to the right. Both are easy to grow in a gritty mix with a warm, dry dormancy in late summer. They reproduce vegetatively very slowly, and my plants have never set seed, so I am unable to list them on the web site.
I obtain many of my unusual bulbs by trading with other collectors or horticulturists, and I was happy to obtain three bulbs of a new color (for me) of Veltheimia bracteata. It is a lovely ivory color, with a slight flush of pink. I now have four colors, the usual pink, yellow, a very pale pink and this new one.
Also from the Mediterranean is Scilla hughii, seen below. This lovely Scilla is huge, with the flower heads a good 8 inches across. It closely resembles S. peruviana, but has much wider leaves and longer bracts. This very rare species grows only on a small island off the coast of Italy. My seeds came from a most reliable source, and my plants are definitely the real thing. I rarely get seed from my plants, but have found that tiny bulbils form on the roots, so propagating the plant is possible.
Canarina canariensis comes from the Canary Islands. It is not a true bulb, but grows from a tuber, and produces large waxy orange flowers that drip with nectar. It is in bloom now, and is dormant in the summer here, but can be unpredictable in its growth pattern, and will sprout in late summer or early fall if watered then. Since it is not hardy, it is safer to treat it as a spring or early summer grower, withholding water until late winter.
Narcissus bulbocodium is a delightful species. I only grow a few of the small narcissus, and this, and N. obesus, are my favorites. They are very easy to grow, and a pot full makes a delightful gift. Mine were grown from seed distributed by the North American Rock Garden Society (www.nargs.org). They bloomed in two years from seed. If you don't belong to NARGS and you love plants, you should! Don't be put off by the focus being rock gardening. Their beautiful quarterly bulletin is a wonderful read, and rock garden plants and bulbs cover a very wide spectrum.
After the spectacular displays of the last two days, the geese have moved to different pastures. They will be back, although soon they will head north for the summer, to be replaced by the swallows from the south. Spring is here in northern California. Ornamental plums and apricots are all in bloom in the gardens, and the wildflowers will follow. My Hellebores in the garden seem to put on an inch of growth a day, and some have opened their buds. The world is awakening after its winter rest.