Quamash (Camassia leichtlinii) is one of those bulbs that I’ve just tossed into the ground maybe 10 years ago, plonked wood chip mulch on top occasionally, and left without even an encouraging bit of fertiliser – serious neglect! But up they come every year and flower around November in shades of smoky-soft-blue, white, off-white and smoky-violet; some with striking dark anthers. My favourites are those which have the widest petals.
Our quamash follow the white dogwoods that shade them in summer, but just now they are getting morning sunshine, and they obviously tolerate the dry summers very well – we don’t irrigate our poor garden at all – just a few pots get an occasional nod from the watering can.
From North America (western USA and Canada), these bulbs are said to like humus and can grow near streams. Mine are just starting to self sow; imagine the drifts of flowers (my own tiny camas prairie)! The range of colours! While many bulbs take years from seed to flower, I am happy to wait. It will be worth it.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design and garden writer who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (www.jillweatherheadgardendesign.com.au)