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Spring Bulb Shopping 5: McClure and Zimmerman

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Clusiana tulip opening out. This bulb is named after Clusius ,a famous botanist who grew it in the Leiden Botanical Gardens in the late 1500s/early 1600s. The much more common (and much cheaper) Tulipa clusianus var. chrysantha has yellow interior and edging, instead of white. (For a rundown on a pale yellow cultivar of chrysantha called ‘Cynthia’, chcek out this site.)

McClure & Zimmerman is a place where you’ll find bulbs you won’t see everywhere. I know I’ve said that about all the catalogues I’ve reviewed, and it’s true about every one. This is part of the reason I’m fond of these catalogues. That and the fact that they all offer a wide variety of many kinds of bulbs.

McClure & Zimmerman has a heavy emphasis on species bulbs, and they also provide thoughtful information on bulbs for warm-winter areas. I’m not in a warm-winter area, but if you are, try bulb-shopping here. You can either try special mixes of narcissus or tulips that don’t require chilling, or your can read through the selections and look for “no cold period required” and “perennializes/naturalizes in the south”.

This is a real service to those who believe they can’t grow any tulips or narcissus. The tulip varieties for warm winters are generally the smaller species types. They don’t have the big-splash appeal of their flashier sisters, but they are charming, and sometimes fragrant. They may also perennialize well in no-chill winter areas. (After all, they come from rocky cliffs in mountains or untended wild meadows near the Mediterranean and Black Seas, so they don’t get a lot of coddling there.)

Warm-winter narcissus are not necessariy small, but tend toward certain breeds: jonquil or tazetta chlorophyll is often present in the line, although some of them look very much like the typical trumpet daffodil. I apologize for not having pictures. It is my experience that warm-winter bulbs don’t perennialize well in my chill-winter garden; I get one or maybe two years of them, and that’s it.

They might do better in the ground (most of my bulbs are in containers), since there are some tazetta daffodils that have naturalized in a nearby town. But that area has a noticeably warmer climate; it’s about a month ahead of me in spring and noticeably warmer in winter. Never mind. I get to grow all those other bulbs that warm-winter growers can’t.

The fritillary section has varieties that are hard to find, and the species lily selection is the best I have seen in a single place. I have to admit, though, that my luck with these fritillaries and lilies has been bad. Since species plants tend to be particular in their needs, this might well laid up to me and not the bulbs. I’m just saying. And it’s also true that, while two of them faded away, one of the species cyclamen I got from McClure and Zimmerman has spread, seeded itself, and bloomed in fall for years without any particular help from me.

In their summer catalogue, you’ll find species and heirlooms in the gladiolus department. Never believed a glad could be dainty and woodsy? Check this out.

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Gladiolus x colvillei ‘The Bride’, introduced about 1870.

Here’s a warning, though: these color photos are all you’ll get. McClure and Zimmerman has beautiful line drawings and occasional black-and-white photos, but it’s a strictly not-coated-stock kind of catalogue.

For some of us, that just allows for a little extra room to dream.

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