Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Iffy Ipheions?

If you read the mainstream garden catalogs, ipheions (starflowers) are hardy to zone 4 or 5... to this, I say HA! The truth about ipheion's hardiness is somewhat different, as you'd expect from a bulb that is native to the highlands of the southern part of South America. Like many other gardeners, on the recommendation of the catalogs I've planted a few bulbs of the lovely blue Ipheion 'Rolf Fiedler', which disappeared from the garden faster than you can say "tender bulb". A more authoritative source pegs the actual hardiness of plain Ipheion uniflorum at zone 7 and the alluring blue 'Rolf Fiedler' at zone 8.
Yet, I'm showing you a picture of an ipheion blooming in our zone 5a garden this spring. This is Ipheion 'Alberto Castillo'. Jose Alberto Castillo is from Buenos Aires, and apparently rather well known in the flower bulb circles. He found this ipheion locally, and introduced it to commerce. It is distinctive for its large flowers and heavy-substanced, gray-green foliage; some think it may be a new species. I had thought it was going to have violet colored flowers, but instead it is supposed to smell like violets... oh. Actually it doesn't even smell like violets to me... maybe more like a peony? Still, the blooms are quite lovely; large, with faint green mid-ribs on the petals, and it blooms for quite a while. The original blooms have been open two weeks, and it is bringing on new sets of flowers. I can't think of another early spring bulb we can grow that has successive blooming like this. It's only gone through one winter here (though it was a particularly foul one), so you might check back next spring and see if I have another picture of it... or of a little empty space in the garden.

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