My front garden is a sea of low, mounding plants. In spring when larger perennials are still waking up, the tall, narrow racemes of blue camas are a counterpoint to the undulating foliage. Against the backdrop of golden barberry, the 3′ spires of blue stars are electrified. Hoping to have a sizable swath in time, a few more Camassia bulbs are added each autumn.
There are about 5 species of Camassia, and with the exception of C. scilloides (found on the east coast), the rest are native to the Pacific Northwest. The first camas I tried was C. quamash; known in our area as a traditional Native American food. I loved their easy care and reliable violet flowers but as my garden matured, the diminutive 8-10″ beauties were overcome.
When I first saw the larger flowered Camassia leichtlinii, it was at Albers Vista Garden in Bremerton. They were planted in large drifts, expertly combined with the cheery oranges, yellows and reds of sunroses at their feet. I was smitten. As with many taller perennial bulbs with strappy but plain basal foliage, they look great amongst fuller plants that conceal the dying leaves as they shift into dormancy.
The straight species of C. leichtlinii has milky white flowers, whereas blue garden hybrids originate from a subspecies called suksdorfii. Camas appreciate meadow-like conditions: moist, rich and well draining soil with full sun. So far they haven’t fallen prey to rabbit or deer, as some other spring bulbs do.
References mention that blue camas are a long lasting cut flower–what gorgeous bouquets I conjure in my head. However, until I have a bountiful grouping that would provide enough for the vase and still leave that heavenly blue in the garden, the Felcos stay sheathed. I’m working on it.
©Colleen Miko, 2014.