Janis Ruksans’ bulbs

Sunday before last, our Adirondack Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society was treated to a spellbinding presentation by Latvian Bulb expert Janis Ruksans.

Now I’ve had my eyes glazed over by what we called back in the days of carousel slide projectors the ‘two-tray presentation’ — photo after photo ad nauseum until it’s all just a blur. But the three PowerPoints Janis presented will stay with me for a long time.

His first presentation was an overview of the incredible bulbs he’s gathered in his plant explorations throughout the former Soviet Union. It included this startling image of Anemone ranunculoides mutations gathered from around Chernobyl. Scary.

mutated flowers from around chernobyl
Photo by Janis Ruksans, used with permission.

This Scilla armena caught my eye among the scores of other images of unusual bulbs he showed.

Scilla armena
Photo by Janis Ruksans, used with permission.

The first presentation was followed by hour-long presentations on fritillarias and corydalis. They were all amazing.

I wish I could point you to Janis’s website for more information. But he doesn’t have one. He puts out a print catalog in January. Propagates plants until August. Then fills orders. If you want his catalog, you have to send $5 cash (with the declining dollar, maybe he’ll raise that this year) to: Janis Ruksans, Bulb Nursery, P.K. 441, LV-1010 Riga, Latvia. I’m trying to talk him into letting me post his catalog online. But it looks like he gets all the business his family needs the old-fashioned way.

I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but friends I trust tell me his book published this year by Timber Press, Buried Treasures: Finding and Growing the World’s Choicest Bulbs, is a great read. It will be on top of my reading pile before the snow flies.

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12 thoughts on “Janis Ruksans’ bulbs”

  1. Was the Scilla also from Chernobyl? Quite amazing what the radiation has done to the Anemone. The variations are quite lovely though I hate to think of the mutations it causes in human cells.

  2. Ki: No. I don’t recall where the scilla were shot. But they look like that without the help of radiation.

  3. It was a great talk, but what impressed me the most was how much he smiled. Having just done some traveling myself, I was surprised he didn’t look more exhausted. I guess these plant explorers are made out of hardy stuff.

  4. I think traveling in the U.S. is a piece of cake compared with plant exploration in the former Soviet Union. Possibly even easier than daily life in Latvia.

  5. That must have been a wonderful talk. The Anemone photograph was frightening, as is the reading about what has happened to the people living near Chernobyl.

    I have linked to your blog in my ‘playing in the dirt’ links!

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