One word…. Dichelostemma

I inherited my mother’s habit of randomly picking up and trying out just about any odd, looks-like-it-might-be-nice bulb that shows up in the garden center’s bins.  Together we’ve failed at freesia, ranunculus, ixia… but every now and then something gives a surprise, and lately it’s been Dichelostemma.

dichelostemma pink diamond

Dichelostemma ‘Pink Diamond’ out in the meadow garden

The first one which made its way into the garden was a selected form of the naturally occurring hybrid ‘Pink Diamond’.  I love the totally tubular pink flowers and the waxy thickness of the blooms and was surprised it actually grew since the bulbs came via a November closeout sale, and late planting into a cold, wet clayish soil is typically not a recipe for success for drought tolerant bulbs from the western reaches of North America.  But they came up fine the next spring and when the wiry flower stalks matured to bright pink clusters of bloom in June I was hooked.

dichelostemma pink diamond

Daisies and Dichelostemma in front of a worse for wear Queen of the Prairie.  The Queen still presides over the back forty, but between acidic rainfall and wayward groundhog nibbling her reign may soon be coming to an end.

‘Pink Diamond’ may or may not become a permanent resident in the meadow.  The first planting returned to bloom the second year but has not put up flowers in the third.  I blame rabbits for nibbling too much of the spring foliage, but we will see what happens next year, as this spring with all the new crocus flowers to chose from the rabbits didn’t quite get to the Dichelostemma foliage before moving on to freshly planted lettuce and broccoli in the vegetable garden.

The ‘other’ Dichelostemma (D. congestum) has been going strong though, putting up its beautiful lilac-purple flower clusters for three years now… in spite of also being nibbled.

dichelostemma congestum

Dichelostemma congestum has the common name of fork toothed Ookow.  When you get tired of introducing guests to your dichelostemma I’m sure switching to the common name will clear things up. 

I love how these plants look among the weeds and grass of the meadow.  I can imagine this isn’t entirely unlike their native habitat in the Western edges of the continent and from a gardeners point of view the yellowing foliage is completely disguised by the surrounding greenery.  Not to get distracted, but I wonder how alliums would work out back here since many of those also share the trick of letting their foliage go to pot just as the blooms reach their peak.

Dichelostemma ida-maia is my last of the D’s and I suppose ‘firecracker plant’ is a decent common name for this one…. although it’s no Ookow.

dichelostemma ida-maia

Dichelostemma ida-maia.  The shape and color of this flower has ‘hummingbird plant’ written all over it.

Besides adding more ‘Pink Diamond’ last fall, I also put in a few D. ida-maia… in spite of my thoughts that I wouldn’t like them.  I was completely wrong in my lack of enthusiasm.  The sad anemic version I saw a few years ago is nothing like the group I now have swaying in the dappled light amongst the grass.  I’m far too greedy a collector to commit large spaces to a single plant but I would have no problem adding another hundred or two (versus the 10 I started with) to this end of the meadow, which is entirely do-able since these small bulb are relatively cheap even when not on clearance.

dichelostemma ida-maia

I trimmed up the lower limbs of the aspen and love the Rocky Mountain glade effect it has given.  Add a Western NA native Dichelostemma ida-maia and we may be on to something here 😉

I’m not sure what the hardiness on these plants (both species and their hybrid daughter) is.  To be honest I didn’t think they would make it through their first careless planting (really careless… cold November fingers so one shovel swipe into the turf, dump bag contents into hole and stomp sod clod down again on top), but they did survive, and it was a winter where our lows reached -6F (-21C) with a solidly frozen soil for months.  So they’re at least that hardy, and I think the extreme summer dryness of the meadow also helps them return in spite of any issues with poorly drained, wet winter soils.

Dichelostemma.  Think about it.  I think they’re pretty cool.

26 comments on “One word…. Dichelostemma

  1. Now you’ve got me thinking where I might have a patch of dry soil. Although I am colder than you . . . but you never know when the plants are ignorant of their supposed hardiness zone.

    • bittster says:

      It might be worth a shot. Like I said the bulbs were really not well cared for and I did just about everything wrong when planting. Ironic since the Fritllaria imperialis which I fussed over a few feet away bloomed once and then disappeared.

      • I actually ordered some of these and they came today. If I ever had a plan for where I would put these, I didn’t write it down and it’s now forgotten. I know that’s your modus operandi, and all I can think is, what bad habits you are teaching me.

      • bittster says:

        “what bad habits you are teaching me” I think those might be the nicest words I’ve ever heard from another gardener 🙂

  2. I haven’t tried that one yet but it’ very unique.
    I’m bad about planting and then forgetting where and what I planted. In the spring, I’m constantly asking myself, “did I plant that?”

    • bittster says:

      I used to know exactly where everything was and where new things were planted but as I get older things I’m noticing things getting a little fuzzier. I like to think it’s because I’m planting much more each year… that’s my story at least!

  3. Sarah says:

    Sometimes the best plants are found by accident! Pretty!

  4. Christina says:

    I’ve never heard of these, they look nice and great that they like your conditions. I’ve tried a few different things here that I’d never grown in the UK like Freesias, Ixia and Anemone coronaria all of which have done well. bulbs are often good in my dry conditions if they are dormant when it’s hot.

    • bittster says:

      You’ve listed three bulbs, each of which I’ve killed and each of which I would love to be able to grow. The anemones especially. Don’t you come across them in your walks and along the roads? I know they do well in your garden, but I thought I remember seeing a few ‘wild’ photos as well.

  5. rusty duck says:

    Definitely cool and looking perfect in the meadow. Good idea re the alliums too.

    • bittster says:

      They do go well with the grass, unlike the colchicums which I also planted out there. The leaves burst up so large before the grass even begins to grow, it all looks just a bit messy.

  6. Very cool plant! I love a tough plant. I’ll have to keep my eye out for them this fall. But I do prefer their common name. Ookow is just too good to resist.

    • bittster says:

      Isn’t Ookow something!? I can’t wait for someone to ask about it and I get to respond with “Oh that’s my fork toothed Ookow. It’s a native bulb from the Western edge of the continent”. Boy will I sound like I know something!

  7. pbmgarden says:

    Quite nice. Never heard of this before but I like that purple one.

  8. Beautiful! And I’ve never heard of them before, which is getting rarer and rarer. Glad you tried something new – and shared it with all of us.

  9. Cathy says:

    Pink Diamond is really amazing – I think if it was blue it wouldn’t stand out so much, but that colour makes it look rather exotic. The common name is even better than the botanical one! Glad youvare keeping your rabbits well fed. 😉

    • bittster says:

      The wildlife around here has it pretty good. I had to escort a woodchuck out of the garden last week and I needed to rescue a rabbit who was stuck in the fence but for the most part they happily sample away and raise their families in peace.

  10. Chloris says:

    I had no idea that they were hardy. I had D. Ida- maia in a pot, but it looks so much prettier growing amongst the grass, they all do. Lovely.

    • bittster says:

      I just don’t understand English hardiness. Magnolias are iffy if not against a wall and Arundo donax fades away over the winter, yet there are hundreds of other plants which thrive for you yet would whimper and die once December hits here.

  11. What a fascinating genus. I like the look of the red one best, but “Fork Toothed Ookow” is an absolutely outstanding name.

  12. Never heard of this and like them all. Love the impossible name no matter if you go common or botanical.

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