University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

Bulbs of North America
Jane McGary. 2001.  Timber Press and the North American Rock Garden Society.  251pp, hardcover.
With chapters by about a dozen authors, specialists in the rock garden field, the major genera of bulbs are covered that one might find growing native in North America, as well as a few others.  This book is a good reference for two groups-- those merely hiking in the wild and wishing to know the bulbous plants they might be seeing, and those experienced gardeners wanting to grow some of these in either rock or native gardens. Mainly text, there is a center section of color plates illustrating representatives of the plants described.

One of the authors (Colston Burrell--author, garden designer and plantsman from Virginia) succinctly describes in the opening to his chapter on Bulbs of Eastern North America why this group deserves a book like this, and your attention.  "Like a prophet, a good bulb is seldom recognized in its native land.  In our quest for the unusual we often overlook the obvious.  The native flora of North America east of the Rocky Mountains contains a great diversity of easily cultivated, garden-worthy bulbs.  They originate in woodlands, meadows, prairies, and wetlands.  Many of these overlooked species lack the splashy flowers of trilliums and lilies, but they have a quiet charm and an ethereal beauty.... A little extra attention to soil and moisture conditions gains experienced gardeners a few additional species whose beauty repays the effort tenfold."

Some of the genera covered in this book are Allium, Calochortus, Erythornium, Fritillaria, Lilium.  There is a chapter of the "Brodiaea Alliance" with this genus and Bloomeria, Dichelostemma and Triteleia.  One chapter covers the Amaryllidaceae.  Then there are chapters on miscellaneous species of the Northwest, Southwest, and of Eastern North America.  In addition to an index at the end, and bios on authors, is a list of sources.  Each chapter has a bibliography for further reading, keys and illustrations of plant parts as needed.


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