Saturday, May 26, 2007

Camassia -- Indian Hyacinth

aCamassia, also known as Quamash or "Indian Hyacinth," is a relatively recent addition to the woodland garden. We discovered this lovely native wildflower a few years ago in a bulb catalogue and just had to try some to see how they'd do in our garden.

This particular one was part of a mix we got from a bulb supplier, which explains the pink flowering variety.
We planted these in fall 2005 and despite the April freeze, they have managed to return and have just come into bloom in the past few days. We also got some of the more common Quamash species in the mix, which has a deep blue-violet flower, but is virtually identical in other respects. But they have yet to show themselves and may not this year. It all remains to be seen, but if the blue ones do bloom, they'll definitely make an appearance here.

Camassia are reputed to be good naturalizers, so we're hoping to see them increase more in the next few years, and we'd be delighted to see them assume near weed status amongst the daffodils and tulips where they are planted. They generally bloom mid to late May (a bit late this year, for obvious reasons) and don't last long ... generally a week or less, and then they are gone for the season, even though their airy grass like leaves do stick around for a bit when they are done blooming.

One of my projects this year is to create an ornamental grass bed with several kinds of grasses and wildflowers, and I hope to get some more of the Quamash blue ones this fall to work in amongst the grasses in a small mass planting. After having dispersed these first ones around the woodland garden, we kind of regret that we didn't just do a couple of mass plantings, because the plant is so slight it looks rather lonely coming up all by itself. Personally I think they'd look just smashing in with fountain grasses, Indian Blanket Flowers (Gaillardia) and blue fescues, adding to what I hope will emulate a prairie planting of native plants. (Ok, so blue fescue isn't native here, but it ought to be!) This planting is only in the planning stages now, but I've been checking out potential plants to include when we've gone plant shopping and should have it finalized soon!

Photos courtesy of Fernymoss


olivia said...

Love these delicate flowers IVG. I hope the purple-y blue ones bloom, would love to see those ... and the combination of pink and blue sounds wonderful. Never heard of Quamash -- I always learn so much from your posts. In the wiki link it says the bulbs were used as a food source.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

You should try some of these Olivia, they're really easy to plant because the bulbs are pretty small and don't have to go down too deep. As for the blue ones ... no sign of them yet though there were more pink ones blooming today in other spots.

I was fascinated by that factoid about the Native Americans using them as a food source as well ... they are so pretty I'd hate to discourage them, but if they do naturalize as I've read, just think about how there were probably once huge patches of them growing in the 19th century .... and food was scarcer then as well, so they were probably wise to use the resource!

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