22 May 2014

Stars For A Dark Garden

I dropped off cardoon and cannas to a fellow gardener. He asked if I would want some colocasia in return since I provided him suggestions on storing them over winter. I was asked to point out anything else that might interest me.

I spied the white flower stalks in the semi-shady area and pointed. "Those? You want some of those? What are they?" I didn't know either, except that I had to have some. They had tall daffodil foliage, growing in some shade, were 3-4 feet tall (1m), and had presence. Most likely a spring blooming bulb I thought, and asked to get some after the foliage died down later.

Next week, I was told to come and get 'em -- before the foliage had died down. They were dug up and left on his front porch. I stopped in and planted them that day as best I could, and crossed my fingers that they would replenish themselves enough to bloom this year.

I found the name is Camassia (Camassia leichtlinii spp. leichtlinii), and informed him. Camassia was usually blue, but this subspecies is white. Camassia is a native spring bloomer from the Pacific northwest down to the western Rockies. The bulbs were an important food source for native Americans and were roasted or boiled. Lewis and Clark wrote about eating them ... and about the severe gas cramps the men got afterwards.

Camassia does best in sun or part shade, and is found in meadows or near ponds. They will grow in damp areas other bulbs will not. (And they bloom during the late spring 'dead zone' when not much else does.) They should make great cut flowers, and the white subspecies can reseed easily, producing lots of offspring according to the Pacific Bulb Society. 'Marshy areas' and 'growing well in some shade' sounds great to help fill in my plant graveyard.

My Camassia came up this spring with thin spindly leaves. Bud stalks arrived later and are blooming. Did the lousy shady area with wet heavy soil or the transplanting before the bulbs redeveloped last year cause the small blooms. Or, maybe it was both. Because some of the bulbs did not produce flowers this year, the suspicion is that low development from last year was the culprit.

"Camassia prefer to grow undisturbed," say instructions. After this year, they will be moved to an area that gets slightly more sun. I look forward to next spring when more delicate looking white stars brighten up the shady spot between the hydrangea and polygonatum.

For The Record:
  • Heavy clay soil with recent organic amendments
  • Mostly light amount of fertilizer
  • Somewhat damp low-lying area
  • No serious pests/disease

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: salvia, coreopsis, tradescantia, camassia, dutch iris
  • Harvested: 1 radish


Christa atCedarmereFarm said...
WOW, you have a beautiful and very informative blog. I am your new follower. Christa
Swimray said...
Thank you so much. I added a fellow Virginian to my blog list and am following yours.
Northern Shade said...
I think they will look great next to Polygonatum. The arching stems will make a nice foil for the starry flowered Camassia. With luck they'll be back to size next year.
Swimray said...
I hope the polygonatum does not spread into them -- it does have a tendency to wander.