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These bulbs are California comebackers.

These bulbs are California comebackers

One of the great privileges of living in the West is being able to grow with ease plants that gardeners in colder, wetter climates cannot. The seven bulbs shown here thrive in the mild winters and dry summers of California and the low desert, bouncing back each year in greater numbers.

Their proliferation gives many weeks of bloom: last year's bulbs flower first, followed by smaller ones that have formed around the stem, then by youngsters that grew from seeds. Some bloom as early as January; most appear March to May.

Individually, their flowers are small-- from 1 to 2 inches across. But en masse, they produce sheets of color, most with two or three stems per bulb cluster, six to several dozen flowers per stem. Most also last well when cut.

Ixia, watsonia, freesia, sparaxis, and clusiana tulips are widely sold, but in small quantities. These small bulbs also dry out faster than large kinds. So buy soon and plant promptly.

Tritonias and homerias are less common. Look for them in nurseries and mail-order bulb catalogs that feature the unusual (several are listed on page 242). Also watch for potted plants for sale in bloom in spring.

You may find other uncommon forms of the bulbs shown--coral watsonias, yellow homerias or ixias, pastel tritonias. If you see an unusual bulb you like, pounce on it--you may not see it for sale again.

Planting depths and recommended spacings are given in the captions. Because their flowers are small and stems tend to be floppy, all seven bulbs look best in dense clumps at least 10 inches across. Tuck them between established flowers or shrubs, or spread in wide strips along paths or parking areas. Poke low-growing kinds between pavers or into flat ground covers. They bloom best in full sun.

Add grit or other amendments as needed to ensure good drainage; if soil stays too soggy, bulbs may rot. Water regularly as needed until flowers finish and foliage begins to die back. You can let bulbs go completely dry in summer, or plant near them and continue watering. When leaves dry completely, cut them off--pulling is likely to yank out the shallow bulbs.

Bulbs of the four shorter plants across the bottom of the page are also well suited to pots: plant them only a bulb's width apart and about half as deep as recommended for the garden. When leaves die back, store planted pots out of the way until time to water again next fall.

Photo: Four-foot spikes of watsonia come in pink, white, or lavender. They're too massive for most pots; plant 4 inches deep, 4 to 6 inches apart

Photo: Foot-tall wiry stems of tritonia each bear six or more flaming flowers. Smaller bulblet to side prolongs bloom. Plant 2 inches deep and apart

Photo: Legendary fragrance of foot-tall freesias is strongest in white and gold shades, milder in others. Set 2 inches deep and apart

Photo: Melon color of Homeria "Aurantiaca' is rare among bulbs. Branching 2-foot stems nod in the wind. Plant 3 inches deep, 3 to 6 inches apart

Photo: Kaleidoscopic patterns mark foot-high sparaxis; they don't open well after cutting. Plant 2 inches deep and apart

Photo: Dense clusters of ixia buds and flowers tip slender stems 2 feet tall. Flowers often display dark centers or blushed tips. White and deep pink are typical; yellow to orange shades are less common. Plant 3 inches deep and apart

Photo: Graceful clusiana tulips open starshaped, wineblotched flowers each day, close into pink-striped eggs each night. Plant 2 inches deep and apart in pots; 5 inches deep, 3 to 6 inches apart in the ground
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Oct 1, 1984
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