Out of the Blue

Seriously.  If anyone has ever considered abducting me, all it would take is a white van and the promise of a plant inside.  What!?  You have a variegated clematis in there?  Move over, let me see…

Within days of starting a conversation about bulbs with a new online friend, I was convinced Crinum lilies were missing from my life and I needed a few.  A week later a (quite heavy) box from Jenks Farmer shows up on my porch and I’m tearing up the garden making room for a bulb or three.

Jenks Farmer crinum

The Crinum bulbs which showed up were huge.  I was so excited I made sure every vaguely disinterested family member had an opportunity to admire them and hear a little about them.  They seemed very grateful.

It’s not easy just squeezing a cantaloupe sized bulb which needs several square foot of space, into a fairly full perennial border, but I no longer even pretend to worry about it.

foundation perennials

Realistically, four square feet of space would be a good start for planting a small crinum.  Obviously this bed has quite a few four foot gaps which need filling 😉

I worry about stupid things instead.  There were a few grassy threads of something which looked like allium seedlings in the spot where the one crinum should have gone.  I’d really like them to be allium seedlings, but they’re too small to risk moving so of course I planted the $40 crinum in a second best spot crammed between a hellebore and penstemon in a spot which was unavailable until I moved the 90 pound “landscape” stone out of the way.  I thought this was the best option rather than risk anything happening to the six or seven tiny weeds which maybe have a 15% chance of become amazing alliums in another half decade or so…

foundation perennials

Crinum powellii album nestled into its new home.  It might be an expensive annual this far North, but the bulb is huge and if all goes well maybe a single flower stalk will grace the garden before winter smashes all my dreams of global warming granted hardiness.

Let me just mention the alliums quickly. They’re three bulbs of Allium karataviense ‘red and pink hybrids’, and even at 50% off during a late November clearance sale, they were still kind of costly.  Not snowdrop-costly but still kind of pricey when you consider they’re basically just onions with an ego.  Of course they’re too self-important to bother splitting and multiplying, but maybe those seedlings are a start.

allium karataviense red

I think their broad, water-repelling foliage is very cool in itself, but the flowers aren’t too shabby either.  I suspect these are hybrids based on Allium karataviense ssp henrikii, but that’s only if you really want to make your onions sound fancy.

I’m going to apologize now for going on and on about tulips again.  A short post mentioning some new crinum bulbs was the plan, but then I got tulips on my brain again, and well…

tulips and dogwood

The hot colored tulips mark the last stage of the front border’s spring flush.  It will face a short lull now as (I hope) the summer bloomers come along, but for now it’s awesome.  Also please note it’s been an excellent dogwood year 🙂

In case you haven’t noticed, my garden follows manias, and I’m sensing another tulip mania coming on.  Bulbs will be dug, moved, stored, replanted… and hopefully next year there will be even more tulip excitement!  Unless of course some epimedium thing or bearded iris obsession develops, you never know.  Sometimes I like to consider how nice this garden could look if the gardener would only focus and organize, but obviously that hasn’t happened and instead I always opt for “interesting”, even if it’s only interesting for me 🙂

black tulip

I think black tulips are interesting.  The gray leaves of Scotch thistle are also interesting, as well as the weedy yellow roadside mustard behind them.  I think I should let the mustard go to seed and check those out for spiciness, that might also be pretty interesting!

Awesome is also a good option.  Some of the tulips rate pretty high on the awesomeness index.

tulip happy generation

No idea on the name of these luscious cherry with orange flowers, but they rate awesome.  The white with red flames behind aren’t too bad either, they came in a mix and I believe they’re the tulip ‘Happy Generation’.

The one new tulip purchase for this year were the antique ‘broken’ tulips purchased through Old House Gardens.  If they return next year I’m sure you’ll see too much of them, but for this year the five single bulbs I planted are more of an obsession rather than an amazing landscape show.  An obsession because of the beautiful, virus-induced patterning and its connection to the raging tulipmania of the 17th century, and just plain interesting because of the great age of these cultivars.  The ones planted this year range in age from one to three hundred years old!

virus broken tulips

The solid color of these tulips has been ‘broken’ by a virus they carry.  I shall keep them away from other tulips (and true lilies) and hope for the best.

As I was considering how old the tulips were I kinda felt a little old myself.  There I was admiring the nice blue mat of what I think is Polemonium reptans and I realized I’ve been tending this plant in some way or another for over forty years.  It was growing in the garden of my parent’s house 51 years ago when they bought it and it’s one of the first things I realized I could move and divide and not end up killing.

polemonium reptans

I don’t know if this is plain old Polemonium reptans or some selection or some other species or hybrid, but it just keeps chugging along year after year.  Never sets a single seed, but slowly creeps along.

Things that I can’t kill are good to have.  They say Crinum lilies are next to impossible to kill so that’s promising, but any idiot knows that winters here are cold, and considering that I know winters here are cold, that may explain my decision to plant them…

primula sieboldii

It’s been pouring rain today.  I made a point of photographing the primula sieboldii yesterday as a memory of what they looked like before they drowned.

So as usual we will see where these questionable decisions lead.  Container crinums would likely be a smarter choice but then I would have to find a big enough container and that might be even more trouble than dealing with the loss of yet another borderline plant.  In any case if I hedge my bets with a bunch more tulip plantings this fall I’ll have plenty to keep me happy in case the other stuff fails, so obviously my apparent madness is actually a well devised plan of attack.

Hahahaha, sure it is. Have a great week, and remember to stay away from those white vans, even if they say they’re full of rare violets and hosta  😉

25 comments on “Out of the Blue

  1. Most of your manias seem pretty reasonable to me. I would grow crinums if I thought they had even a prayer of a chance here.

    • bittster says:

      Well I do have one which has gone through a few winters already without any protection. I thought it was nonsense when someone gave me a few Crinum bulbispermum to try, but here we am a few years later and they’re still doing fine!

  2. Deborah Banks says:

    Where is that white van with the variegated clematis? I’m pretty sure I need that too. 🙂

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    A healthy mania, I think. The source I looked up stated Crinum powellii album said it was hardy to zone 6… would that be with heavy winter mulch?? I hope it flowers this year for you, it looks beautiful!
    Btw, your narcissi are now in full bloom and are absolutely delightful. It’s been fun seeing the different forms come into bloom. Thanks so much!

    • bittster says:

      If all goes well we will see a zone 6 winter, and between that and a nice winter mulch they might be ok. Flowers this summer would be nice though!
      Glad the daffodils have done well, I hope you still have room for more 🙂

  4. Lisa Lindquist says:

    A variegated clematis you say? Mmmmm… I’m addicted to clemmies, so I’m first in line please. And as far as abducting you, that van would need to be extra tall or long my friend. Don’t forget, I’ve seen you in person! 😉

    • bittster says:

      Haha, I don’t mind ducking down to get into the van 😉
      I’ve been eyeing a few new clematis recently. Is that bad? Right now there are only a few here, and a few more would be nice!

  5. Rare violets? How did you know that I just received three Viola odorata ‘Irish Elegance’ as part of my over the top online ordering spree during the winter. I’m moving into Cyclamen, lots more Epimediums and assorted shrubs that have been on my wish list for years. Always something new to absorb one’s interests. Isn’t that why we garden

    • bittster says:

      I love your ordering sprees, and ever since seeing that weigela I’m wondering if I need one as well! I hope yours does well, but of course when it does I’ll need one 🙂
      That ‘Irish Elegance’ is a beauty. Of course I want one as well, and I wouldn’t complain about a pink one either… which reminds me that I have to bug a friend about sending me one since you know I just searched a few nurseries to see if I could find out where you purchased your Irish Elegance!

  6. I really like your broken tulip and that patch of Polemonium is awesome! Once when I was working in the front garden an unmarked white van pulled up. A man jumped out but instead of kidnapping me he sold me a box of frozen steaks, which weren’t very good.

    • bittster says:

      Haha, we get the food trucks rolling through every now and then, and I do run when I see them 🙂 Every now and then a random car swings through with someone selling frozen food out of their trunk… Uhhhhh no thanks…

  7. Paddy Tobin says:

    I’d jump into that white van if there was some of that polemonium available there – it’s a beauty!

    Re the crinums: I grow Crinum x powellii and C. x powellis ‘Album’ and the bulbs go very, very deep. I planted them deeply to begin with, about a foot down on top of a deep layer of manure. A few years ago I attempted to lift a bulb for a friend and gave up after digging down the side of the clump (each bulb is now a clump over two feet wide) to a depth of about two feet. So, if planted deeply I imagine they would survive your cold winter.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Paddy. I wanted to plant them a little deeper but my soil is thin and there’s only so deep I can go before running into the packed shale underneath. I dug as deep as possible, left two or so inches of decent soil under the bulbs, and will hope for the best. Another concern is that the water sits above the shale, so planting deep puts the roots into a winter wet layer and that’s just one more thing they won’t like!
      I guess the good out of all this is that the bulbs will never make it two feet down!

      • Paddy Tobin says:

        A common name for the crinum is “Swamp Lily” so that may reassure you re the winter water table.

        I forgot to finish the tale of digging for a bulb for my friend – after the two feet, I just gave us and he never received a bulb!

  8. Cathy says:

    I love tulips too and those mottled ones are rather special. But Epimediums are beautiful Frank and should not be ruled out for next year… 😉 I wonder if you can lift Crinum bulbs like tulips to store over winter? Loved the description of how you cram things in to tiny spaces… I am the same. I hate seeing bare soil! 😃

    • bittster says:

      Well maybe I need one more epimedium, I’ve heard good things about ‘Pink Champagne’ and I’d hate to not try something which a friend has suggested 🙂
      Someone suggested trying the crinium bulbs in pots but after hauling out all the other things last week, I don’t know if I want to add anything to the list. I will of course, but hate to do it on purpose!

  9. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Those C. Bulbs sound like they are gigantic. I had no idea that you could grow Crinums in your zone. It will be interesting to see how this works out. Those tulips are a nice shot of color. I am not familiar with Polemonium. It sure makes a beautiful purple swathe. I will be watching for that white van. Ha…

    • bittster says:

      Yes, the crinum bulbs are huge! I love them and hope they last for more than a season or two, and of course I’ll brag or whine about how they do way more than anyone cares to hear 😉
      The polemonium is nice, but I’m never sure if I have it identified correctly. Also it never seeds or anything so I wonder if it’s some kind of hybrid.

  10. pbmgarden says:

    Your posts always make me smile. There is no doubt you love your garden. The tulips are gorgeous as it that area of Polemonium. I bought a crinum bulb a couple years ago because I read every southern garden should have one. At the time I had no idea have huge the bulbs can grow. Looking forward to update.

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Susie 🙂
      I hope the crinum do well, it’s a whole different world up here! Deep down inside I have many doubts about them being hardy but we will see. The ones I’ve seen were all way down south, and most were huge masses of plant in the middle of a sun-baked lawn and nothing like where these are growing.

  11. Chloris says:

    That white van is going to get rather crowded. I have a nice clump of crinums which my predecessor planted at the back of the border. I would like to move it, but they are so deeply stuck in the soil that I only succeed in slicing through the big fat bulbs, which is agony. Yes, tulips are oneof the seasonal obsessions, but they are an expensive addiction as you really need great swathes of them. Love those polemoniums.

  12. Barbara H. says:

    Hi there – followed you over from Each Little World. Love the tulips. Crinums – I will echo the others about them being impossible to dig up. I’m in NE Alabama and after several years decided I wanted to either divide them or move them – can’t remember now which it was. Impossible. I gave up and they are in their somewhat inappropriate spot forever now. The clump has grown in size so make sure that whatever surrounds it is easily moved because I doubt you will ever get the crinum out if it survives. We often get down into the high 20s and sometimes the high teens though without the snow cover you probably get.

  13. That is definitely a big bulb! I will be planting some Cyclamen hederifolium this fall, and I have read that the corms can eventually end up the size of a dessert plate, but at least they don’t start out that way, LOL. (The white van could snag me this year with the promise of a nicely shaped Cupressus arizonica ‘Blue Ice’. I know that sounds incredibly pedestrian, but NOBODY has been selling that particular cultivar around here for at least five years. The other two “blue” ones, yes sometimes, but not THAT one which of course is the only one I want/need!)

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