July 17, 2012

The Happy Story about my Ismene 'Advance', or 'Summer Daffodil'

THIS LARGE TUB OF ISMENE HAS BECOME A FRAGRANT FOCAL POINT IN OUR SUMMER GARDEN, AND IT ALL BEGAN WITH ONE MARK-DOWN BULB PURCHASED AT THE GARDEN CENTER.  IN THE AUTUMN, WE DRAG IT UNDER A BENCH IN THE GREENHOUSE, WHERE THE POT AND FOLIAGE DRIES OUT, AND REMAINS COOL.


We often see Ismene, or commonly sold as 'Summer Daffodils' ( they are not Narcissus, but rather are relatives of the amaryllis) sold in spring bulb catalogs, and in mesh or poly bags at the garden center and pass over them, assuming that they are difficult to grow, but the truth is that these natives of the Andes Mountains are quite easy to grow, and they deserve a second look if you have never tried them. Ismene hybrids provide a fragrant week or two of bloom during the hottest months of the summer. This large tub of the variety sold as Ismene 'Advance' began as a single bulb which I purchased at a local garden center for a few dollars. The first year it produced one flower, and then died. Then I brought the pot into the greenhouse to go dormant for the winter, and forgot about it.

Here is its story.


THE RICH SCENT OF ISMENE IS SIMILAR TO DAFFODILS, BUT I THINK IT SMELLS MORE LIKE SUN TANNING LOTION.


I used to grow these bulbs and them dispose of them, buying new ones each year, or, keeping them from year to year in pots that were far too small for them. I discovered this a few winters ago, when I emptied a 6 inch pot with a single bulb in in which appeared to be dormant, to only find a pot filled with thick, fleshy roots. Clearly, my single bulb wanted a larger pot, so while dormant, I up-sized the pot to a 10 inch pot. 

The following winter, while the bulb (s) were dormant in their 10 inch pot, I knocked it out in January and saw the same thing, a root ball completely white with thick roots while dormant ( not unusual for most bulbs in the amaryllis family - which is why any amaryllis relative prefers to keep its roots while the top of the bulb is dormant - they often grow underground during their 'dormant period'. I upgraded again to a 12 inch pot. 
AFTER FOUR YEARS, ONE ISMENE 'ADVANCE' BULB HAS GROWN INTO A CLUMP OF BULBS THAT COMPLETELY FILLS A 14 INCH POT. THOSE OF US IN THE NORTH, CAN ENJOY FLORIDA-SIZED ISMENE CLUMPS JUST BY STORING POTS IN THE CELLAR IN THE WINTER, AND KEEPING THE POTS COOL AND DRY.

Last winter, I upgraded again to a 14 inch pot, and look at the plant now. I think it is safe to say that if you have been under impressed with Ismene (Hymenocallis), then try saving and upgrading your pot each year, and see what happens. Now, I want to try some of the other hybrids, and maybe some of the species of both Ismene and Hymenocallis. 

A brief botany lesson here, without getting into it too deeply, In 1990, the genus Hymenocallis was split into two - Ismene and Hymenocallis, so although you may see these bulbs sold in catalogs as Hymenocallis, they are properly referred to as Ismene hybrids ( complex crosses between a number of species according to the Pacific Bulb Society Wiki).

1 comment :

  1. I'll have to try that, though not sure I want to smell more suntan lotion during the summer.

    ReplyDelete

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