When it comes to planting bulbs, the standard advice has always been to choose a location with well-drained soil. Bulbs like tulips and daffodils tend to rot and die out when they’re planted in a soggy spot.
But if you have a water garden or a generally soggy yard, there are a few options for damp places. The Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center suggests planting certain varieties of fritillarias and camassias near ponds or in places that don’t drain well.
Here are a few specific choices you might try. (The information below has been adapted from material furnished by the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center.)
Fritillaria meleagris – I’ve never personally grown this bulb, but I find it rather charming in an understated way. I’m used to hearing the common name of “checkered lily” for this fritillaria, based on its two-toned, patterned flowers, but it’s also known as guinea-hen flower and snake’s-head fritillaria. It’s native to Europe where it often grows and naturalizes in moist locations. It can be found with either checkered purple or white flowers that bloom in April-May.
The average plant height is around 10 inches. They prefer full sun to partial shade, and rich soil. They do best when the plants are not disturbed after planting. These fritillarias are often sold as mixed colors but individual cultivars in specific colors can be found as well. White varieties also tend to be subtly checkered in a white-on-white pattern.
Camassia genus– Camassia is native to the mountains and prairies of western North America, where it became known as edible camassia and Indian quamash. You may also hear it referred to as “wild hyacinth,” although it’s not related to true hyacinths.
This bulb has a history: Meriwether Lewis praised it in 1806 in notes he made during the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Even so, this little plant remains one of the lesser-known bulb flowers.
Camassias, which naturalize in USDA zones 3-8, have a very natural look and fit in well between perennials and among ground covers. If too many bulbs develop in any one location, they can be dug up in early fall, divided, and immediately replanted.
There are three separate species within the Camassia genus that you’re likely to find in mail order catalogs, and these are:
- Camassia cusickii – With light blue flowers that bloom in May-June, the plant grows to a height of 24-32 inches and thrives in full sun to partial shade. It produces an abundance of flowers, with up to 100 star-shaped little flowers on each stem.
- Camassia quamash (also known as C. esculenta) – This is a late-blooming bulb, with deep blue flowers that bloom in June-July. They grow to an average height of 14-16 inches and need full to partial shade. This camassia is one that the native North Americans used to eat.
- Camassia leichtlinii – This species features creamy white flowers that bloom in May-June. It’s a tall flower, growing to an average height of 24-40 inches, and does best in full sun to partial shade.
All photos courtesy of the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center