Fall blooming bulbs; the stunning Sternbergia lutea!
by David Salman
This Mediterranean native bulb commonly known as Lily of the Field or Winter Daffodil provides a brief but fabulous bit of color in the fall xeriscape. The large, deep yellow, six petaled flowers appear suddenly in late September here in Santa Fe's high elevation, short season Zone 6 climate. (They bloom later in warmer areas.) The flowers illuminate their planting area for a couple of weeks before retiring for the season. But don't forget Sternbergia's ornamental evergreen foliage. The deep green, strap-like leaves hold their color right through the winter adding a startling element of green to the winter garden.
Sternbergia is a xeric species native to the dry hills and mountains surrounding the northern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. It prefers being planted in a planting bed with other xeric plants so it doesn't get too much summer water. I recommend planting it into xeric groundcovers or low growing perennials like Dwarf Silver Leaf Sage (Salvia daghestanica, as seen in the photo). The Salvia's silver foliage provides a dramatic backdrop to the bright flower and very green foliage. Silver groundcovers like Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium) and Patridge Feather (Tanacetum niveum ssp. amani) are complementary companions for Sternbergia.