Bulbs are the most economical plants



Bulbs present us with an economical way to have flowers in the garden year round. In general, bulbs bloom every year and even produce new bulbs for planting.
But not all bulbs. Many of them will give flowers for a year or two or three and then disappear. Bulb plants that originate in Mediterranean climates – found in South Africa, western Australia, Chile and in all the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea – are reliable choices.
For 20 years, Burbank resident Grace Hampton has had a most remarkable blooming bulb. It is Haemanthus coccineus, considered the most unusual species of blood lily – a South African bulb. Its flowers are three inches wide with coral red petals that enclose numerous gold stamens. After the flower dies, deep green straplike leaves – similar to those seen on the Kaffir lily (Cliviaminiata) – appear, growing up to 6 inches wide and 2 feet long.
Other South African bulbs (including corms and rhizomes) that can be grown here comprise a formidable list, including almost everything from A to Z, as follows: Agapanthus (lily-of-the-Nile), Amaryllis (naked lady), Babiana (baboon flower), Brunsvigia, Bulbinella, Chasmanthe, Clivia (Kaffir lily), Crinum, Dietes (fortnight lily), Eucomis, Freesia, Galtonia, Gladiolus, Gloriosa, Haemanthus (blood lily), Homeria, Ixia, Lachenalia, Lapeirousia, ornamental Oxalis, Rhodohypoxis, Schizostylis, Sparaxis (harlequin flower), Streptanthera, Tritonia, Tulbaghia (society garlic), Vallota, Veltheimia, Watsonia, and Zantedeschia (calla lily). Pictures of these plants may be found on the Internet at www.horticopia.com.
Many of the above plants are on display in the 26-acre arboretum located on the campus of California State University, Fullerton, which has a special section devoted to Mediterranean climate species. The Fullerton Arboretum is open every day from 8 a.m. until 4:45 p.m., with plant sales held on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, call (714) 278-3579.
Hampton also sent me a picture of a moon flower (Ipomoea alba), which might best be described as an oversize white version of the common purple morning glory. “What’s outstanding about this plant,” Hampton wrote, “is that it has a 6-inch bloom that opens out before your eyes. You can watch it bloom and develop in one minute. You need a video camera to capture it.” Packets of moon flower seeds, which germinate quite readily, can be found at any nursery or garden center.
B. Gifford from Moorpark wants to know why the dwarf orange tree he planted last fall developed brown stems and curled leaves this past spring and summer. Orange trees are susceptible to planting shock. They should be well-watered and fertilized their first year in the ground to keep them growing; when their growth stagnates, they show curled leaves and stem dieback. They should grow out of this funk as long as gardeners encourage their development with citrus fertilizer – available at any nursery – and deep soak their roots with a slowly trickling hose.
Hilda Chapman wrote from Canoga Park that she cut back her hydrangeas in late January and had no blooms the following summer. Hydrangeas should be cut back at the end of July to ensure flower production the following year. In the late summer and early fall, buds for the following year’s blooms are produced. If you cut back in January, you are removing the flower buds that would have opened in the coming summer. If you did not cut back your hydrangeas this past summer, leave them alone. Left untouched, they should bloom next summer, after which they can be pruned again.
Tip of the week: Coax an ornamental indoor vine out of a sweet potato. Balance your sweet potato on the rim of a large glass or mason jar with the help of three toothpicks, inserted at equal distances around the tuber. Make sure the water is in contact with the bottom of the potato. You will have an attractive vine growing up your kitchen window in about a month. There are several sweet potato vines for outdoors, sold in containers as vining plants, that are quite stunning. “Blackie” has mahogany-colored leaves; “Tricolor” has leaves variegated in gray-green, white and pink; and “Terrace Lime” has yellow-green foliage.

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