Janis Ruksans Part 2


Janis is immersed in bulbs - from finding them in far off exotic lands to propagating and growing them. He grows from seed - wohoo - in large plastic bulb boxes (40 x 60 x 23 cm) filled with medium. They are similar to what we call lily trays - very open, slotted plastic sides and bottoms. The handles are very well reinforced, allowing them to be lifted from inside to out and back again. He plants from 30 to 50 of these yearly.

This amazes and inspires me since I have always tended to use many small ( 2 1/2 inch) seedpots even when sowing in quantity. The few times I experimented along his vein with rhododendrons mixed with Primulaceae have heretofore been disasters. I used shallow propagation trays with covers.The primula germinated readily, while the rhodies never had a chance to compete. His answer is distinct genera with similar moisture requirements - frits with crocus and muscari. I am getting ideas already!

He uses a home made medium recipe which reminds me of old timers like Linc Foster's: equal parts peat moss, coarse sand, and composted loam. He doesn't mention cooking the loam to sterilize it, the way Ellie Spingarn used to do (she did admit it had a certain smell). He only talks about composting it for several years. He adds dolomite and low nitrogen fertilizer with microelements. (This is right in keeping with the current trend to add crushed mineral rock.) He finishes this base with added sand to the touch for a well drained mix. After he sows the seed, he covers it with a coarse grit. The equivalent locally would be our sandblasting grade sand. Depending on the seed, numbers one and three are best. On top of that he adds a mulch. This is one thing new to me and it makes sense! Have you ever gotten lift-off from the top peat layer on a pot of say Narcissus bulbocodium when it starts to emerge from dormancy? From now on, I will add a mix of vermiculite and peat to all bulb pots as last layer.

For a detailed accounting of all his practices, I recommend his book Buried Treasures: Finding and Growing the World's Choicest Bulbs (Timber Press 2007). Not only will you find his growing practices but accounts of his adventures. Few of us can dream the life of a modern day plant hunter such as he. If you wish to share in the splendor of what he has propagated, you may order from him. For MSWord format, email him at janis.bulb@hawk.lv

Janis Ruksans Part 1


Were you one of the fortunate who heard Janis Ruksans during his memorable 2007 NARGS Speakers Tour? Of course his expertise on rare bulbs was dazzling. (This was a lecture from an eminent nurseryman who had traveled on some of the most exotic plant expeditions in the recent past, as well as growing experience of 30 plus years propagating bulbs from seed.) Most impressive though, was his noble character which emanated gentleness and consistent good cheer. His unassuming ways endeared him to all he met.

Last fall, we were given to understand Janis was retiring from his nursery due to ill health. Luckily though, he has recovered sufficiently to once again issue a catalog. Don't miss it. Gems depicted following are but a few of the treats he has to offer. For a richly illustrated catalog, send $5 (refundable with order) to
Janis Ruksans
P.O. Stalbe
LV-4151 Cesis distr.

  Allium baisunense            Allium pseudobodeanum       Corydalis ruksansii

Crocus mathewii

Crocus biflorus nubigena

Crocus sieberi Cretan Snow

                        Fritillaria karelinii aff. Pulkhakim    Muscari macbethianum    
Muscari adilii


Trillium grandiflorum           Tulipa regelii
Gothenburgs Pink                                       

Mastering Mushrooms


Happy New Year! The blue moon has ushered in a crisp first day of the year with a dusting of snow. More seeds arrived so there is much to do. And during the holidays, task accumulations grew in the shadows. There was so much going on I almost missed little Narcissus cantabricus coming to flower. It germinated several years ago ('06) from NARGS seed (second round). If you are not familiar with the second round of the seed exchange, listen up. If you order from the first round (donors can choose 35 packets, non-donor 25) you get another opportunity for the leftovers. First round usually has over 4000 listings from which to choose, all for $15 USD., equal about 60 cents per packet. Yes, you are required to be a member of NARGS. But you should anyway. As Norman used to quip "All the best gardeners are." So after the first round is finished, you may order a large number of packets at a very nominal cost from the leftovers. It allows one to experiment. Hence, I tried the narcissus pictured, which is not hardy outside for me. The scent alone on such a winter's day makes any trouble worthwhile. What a joy. The first round of the seed exchange is open until February 10, 2010. Note that means you must have your order in the hands of the volunteers by that date. For a view of the seedlist go to NARGS 2009-10 Seedlist

The gifts of Christmas Bûche were much appreciated. It was duly noted that skirmishes broke out for the last mushroom. So to prevent further ado, I am providing directions. Everyone should have as many mushroom candies as they can make! Mastering mushrooms is not at all difficult. The hardest part is waiting until they are finished to begin devouring them.