November is Bulb Planting Season!
Planting Now for a Beautiful and Fragrant Spring Garden
Not All Bulbs are Created Equal
For the typical gardener who likes to have Spring bulb blooms, it means ordering bulbs in August, chilling the them in the refrigerator until September or October, and then finally planting. Most traditionally used bulbs need cold weather to germinate! A great example are tulips, which are often the first flower we think of when discussing bulbs. And how could we not? They come in tens of different colors and varieties (Over 3700 registered according to Elegant Tulip Bulbs)
For us here in the Bay Area, the timing and types of bulbs we use is a little different because of our rather late warm season. While we can grow tulips and other cold weather bulbs here in California, it is a little trickier. If you are not up for constant care and monitoring of your garden, do not fear! There are many other bulb options that work well in our climate. First we will look at some other traditional bulbs that will grow well in the Bay Area, and then we'll have a chance to see some native California bulbs - these blooms will be like bringing in the wildflower sights of your Mount Tamalpais hike right into your own backyard.
Daffodils love Bay Area weather, and thank goodness because these little beauties bring a great splash of color (and happiness in my opinion!) to our landscape. Usually we see the traditional yellow daffodils, but there are many other colors to choose from, including white, pink, orange, and tricolor like the photo to the right.
In addition to being colorful and well-suited to our climate, daffodils are also relatively easy to grow. Unlike so many other plants, they are not very picky about their soil. They are also good for lower water gardens, as these guys need just a smidge of water over the Summer months; too much and the dormant bulbs can easily rot. And yet another boon to Bay Area gardeners? Deer are not keen on daffodils, so there is a solid chance you will not wake up to an empty patch where your blooms used to be.
Colorful, easy, deer-resistant flowers that will re-grow year after year? Sounds like a win to me!
I adore freesias - they have beautiful trumpet shaped blooms and a delicate and subtle fragrance that immediately evokes the feeling of a warm Spring day. They also come in a wide variety of colors, such as the purple to the left, and the yellow freesias at the top of the post. You can also find them in orange, red, pink, lavender, and mauve - and explosion of color for your Spring garden.
The freesia is native to South Africa, and does not do well in cold weather. In most of the states, freesias will not survive the cold winters, and must either be brought inside or replaced each year. Lucky Bay Area residents, however, live in USDA zones 9 and 10, in which freesias can easily survive the average Winter. In fact, one particular species of freesia, the Freesia alba, has naturalized to Northern California, and growing it outside of the region is rather difficult.
Native California Bulbs
The brodiaea species are native to the western states, and many are specifically native to Northern California, such as the Brodiaea elegans, which you can see to the right. The varieties all fall within the blue, lavender, and purples, though with a fair amount of whites, creams, and yellows mixed in to the base of the petals. (Calflora has provided a full list here)
Since this is a native bloom, soil type is not much of an issue, but you will want to make sure to plant in a sunny spot with good drainage. Over-watering can definitely lead to rot, and these pretty plants are pretty drought-resistant anyway!
Alliums are part of the onion family, but son't let that dissuade you from including some of these beauties in your landscaping. There are many varieties of allium as well, and while they share some common traits, such as the long, leafless stem and crown of blooms, there is still substantial differences among the types.
The species that are native to Northern California are, for the most part, naturally drought resistant. There are a few varieties that are native to moist meadows and banks of waterways, which will require more water if you choose them. (California Native Bulbs provides a list of California native alliums) Like daffodils, allium is naturally deer-resistant, which is always a bonus for Bay Area gardens.
The calochortus is also a native California bulb, and has several varieties that range across the state. The calochortus vestae, which you can see to the right, is from the northern coastal range, and would do well in most Bay Area landscapes. In addition to the beautiful white color, this bloom also comes in varieties ranging from light to dark pink. Of course they also have the stunning multi-colored interior, which looks like batiked silk.
Also known as the Goddess Mariposa Lily, these flowers are usually found on sunny hillsides where there is excellent natural drainage. Within your landscape, this drought-resistant bulb will need a sunny space to grow and provide you with its fantastic beauty.
Of course there are always more beautiful flowers that could grace our landscaping. Is there a native bulb that you would like to share with us?