May 1, 2011


This is my Garden Oops for the confessional that Joene sponsors.  You can check out gardening mistakes on her blog on the first of each month.  It's kind of humbling.

Iris reticlata bulbs
Last spring I decided to move some tiny Iris reticulata bulbs from the back garden to a more prominent spot where the itty bitty little blooms could be seen.

In March I waited to see little green shoots pop up so I could find them, then started digging them up carefully for the move.

does this look like a tiny bulb?
My first gentle thrust into the earth was met with a big wet sloppy crunch as the trowel sliced through a giant bulb.  A big golden globe of a bulb, like an onion.  I certainly didn't recall that these tiny irises came from such fat bulbs.

I dug up some more, and half the time I unearthed a whole hearty bulb and half the time I sliced right through them, they were so big.  What the heck?  How could these be iris reticulatas?

Well, they obviously weren't, as I concluded after half a dozen had been dug out.  Everyone has made this goof at one time or another; we have all dug up something we forgot we planted.

But here's the real Garden Oops: even after unearthing a half dozen of these giant bulbs, I could not figure out what they were.  I racked my brain, I checked my records, I looked back over old photos of that part of the garden.  I tried to remember what I had put in there.  There were too many and they were too closely planted for digging critters or garden fairies to have buried something randomly.  Finally, four days later, I found a plant order I had placed last fall . . . .

. . . . these were Camassia cusickii bulbs.  And they were expensive heirloom ones from Whiteflower Farm!!  I had ordered and planted 10 of them.

How do you completely forget a large order of large bulbs that you paid a large price for and spent a large amount of time on your hands and knees in the fall planting in the cold earth?  Not just forgot where they were planted, but forgot what they were and why they were there at all.

I replanted what I could, and they came up beautifully in May.

Camassias, also called Quamash, are native plants from the Northwest that have clear ice blue stars on tall spikes in spring.  The blooms are like amsonias, only lighter and taller and icier blue.  They are one of the few bulbs that will naturalize well in wet soil, which is why I put them in this spot in my garden to begin with (see, there had even been a thought process to this planting before I forgot about it.)

Quamash bulbs were a food crop for Native Americans, and I can say the bulbs I sliced through were really juicy and looked delicious (I didn't eat any).

I'm anxious for my Camassias to naturalize into a big stand . . .
. . . like these from EasyToGrow

Honestly, could you have completely forgotten such lovelies?  I won't this season.


  1. I smiled..yes, for sure, been there done that. I am like you with that perplexed look of where did these come from. My problem is that I get so many bulbs sent to me to try and purchase for clients, I plop them in and get digging happy next spring, forgetting where the bulbs were planted that I was supposed to review the next year. Many big fat bulbs are halved in my garden.

  2. I've forgotten so many bulbs I've planted over the years. Now I call them 'surprize myself' events. I'm much better at record keeping than I used to be, but there's something about the span between fall bulb planting and spring bulb sleuthing ... I surprize myself every year and I look forward to it.

    Thanks for participating in yet another GOOPs. I always enjoy your contributions.

  3. At least it wasn't your keys or your clogs. I forget where I put stuff all of the time. I have got to get some Camassia this fall. My Amsonias do well in wet soil (the tabernaemontana and Hubricht's both) but I bet they'd look even better with Camassia! Especially since Amsonia tends to look so different from everything else when it blooms (with the color palette I've got anyway). The differences in form would be nice.

  4. Forgetfulness does have its plus side; you had a happy moment when they came in the mail and then an equally happy moment when you realized what they were and they bloomed! They are lovely. The spider lily foliage just died back this week and I'll be lucky if I don't try to plant something on top of them in the next month! I should go stick a marker there right now but I won't ;)

  5. Donna, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one digging up fat bulbs I forgot about!

    Joene, Spring surprises are wonderful, but very perplexing.

    Sweetbay, it would be interesting to see amsonias and camassias near each other. Similar blooms but very different structure, shape and foliage.

    Cat, it would be so easy to put little stakes where forgotten or dormant plants are... why don't we do it? No excuse!

  6. Camassia are awesome. I love seeing them at Chanticleer in the spring, where they have naturalized along the lower streambed area. I have planted them for a client in her streambed but the amount of water that sweeps through periodically has wiped out a lot of them.

  7. Your camassias are lovely, so glad they weren't ruined by the inadvertant digging. I thought I was pretty good at keeping records but going through my journal just a day ago looking for a plant name and couldn't find it. In fact, after I checked, many plants are missing off the list. Obviously I have some work to do.

  8. Ha, ha, Laurrie, I can so relate to this--every spring I am surprised by what comes up because I've forgotten some of what I planted in the fall:) And yes, I've accidentally dug up bulbs, too. But so glad these camassias survived the move--they are gorgeous!

  9. I totally would've done the same - especially with bulbs, which get planted at the end of a long tiring season!

  10. Melissa, Camassias like damp, but water sweeping through is probably too much. Mine have already started to naturalize and spread in their second spring.

    Marguerite, it's a mystery... where did all the careful records go? I have some plants coming up that I have not documented and have no idea what they are.

    Rose, I guess these bulbs are pretty hardy, there seems to be no ill effect from digging half of them up!

    Shira, Everyone's garden must have bulb violence going on... they get unearthed by forgetful gardeners all the time : )

  11. Laurrie, I planted some Camassia a few years ago too and am waiting for them to naturalize. I love their delicate blue color and the way they come up after most of my other bulbs are finished.

    I think we've all stuck a shovel in the ground and come out with a few bulbs we forgot were there. It's an inevitable part of loving to garden!

  12. I wish I had a dollar for every time I have done something similar. I would be rich. Love these camassias.

  13. Debbie and Lisa, we all really would be rich if got paid every time we dug up our garden treasures!


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