What's happening in the Rock Alpine Garden this week? A few new treasures are in bloom

March 16, 2010 Mike Kintgen , Curator of Alpine Collections

Saturday's warm weather drew out more bulbs and other early bloomers, and finally its beginning to look like March should. March belongs to several genera in the rock garden, Crocus, Galanthus and Helleborus are just a few genera that shine in March.

First we will revisit the genus Crocus, the main focus of last week's blog. The sunny skies Monday afternoon allowed me to get photos of crocus both open and closed. The first is the same cultivar of Crocus sieberi I featured closed up last week.   The bright orange stamens are a lovely contrast to its lavender petals. The white crocus is most likely Crocus chrysanthus 'Ard Schenk' or a similar cultivar. Notice both the pale gray venation on the reverse of the blossoms and the orange stigma sticking out of the far left.Crocus sieberi can be found in the lower meadow  smack in the  middle of the Rock Alpine Garden, while Crocus 'Ard Schenk' is in front of the Cactus and Succulent house behind the low stone bench.


While many of the crocus where open yesterday afternoon, Crocus reticulatus  pictured above,  is perhaps my favorite crocus. Still closed up deep in the shadows,  the reverse of each bloom is a work of art. It is especially beautiful as each bloom opens revealing the interior. 

Iris reticulata cultivars have been getting well deserved attention now, and Iris 'Pixie'  pictured above makes up for it's smaller size with the intensely deep color of its flowers.  It graces the top of the waterfall at the highest point of the garden. The blooms are less weather resistant than crocus, and snow and temperatures above 70 make them go away quickly.  Actually temperatures in the 30s through low 60s make most bulbs last longer than warmer temperatures.

Sternbergia candida is a lovely white flowering bulb in the Amaryllis family. It is rather rare in gardens, as all Sternbergia are CITIES listed meaning permits are needed for them to cross international borders. This is done in part to curb the widespread collection of bulbs out of their native habitats.  Many species of bulbs are still in dangered of extinction through gathering for the horticultural trade, and habitat loss. Enjoy the photo of the Sternbergia is it is in a part of the garden not accessable to the public.

Eranthis hyemalis is the last bulb featured this week. A member of the buttercup family you can see the resemblance to several of our native buttercups found in the high country. On a side note the buttercup family has been broken up and Eranthis maybe in the hellebore family. This cheery little gem is under the Magnolia at the east entrance of the Rock Alpine Garden.

Staying in the same family but departing  the bulbs,  is Pulsatilla vulgaris or pasque flower with its deep lavender or purple blooms. The word pasque is French for Easter and refers to the general bloom time. Soon it will be time to find our native pasque flower Pulsatilla patens in the foothills. Pasque flowers can be found throughout the Rock Alpine Garden.

Helleborus vesicarius, a feature of a blog several weeks ago is now in full bloom, as you can see it is a far departure from the open blooms of Lenten roses (Helleborus x hybridus) or Christmas roses (Helleborus niger), but it has its own charm. Spring is well on its way.


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