It’s high season for minor bulbs in my garden, the kind I need to plant only once, counting on to spread into colonies of long-lasting flower carpets year after year. That might sound like fantasy — but it happens!
First among these obliging spreaders is glory of the snow (Chionodoxa forbesii), which has up-facing French blue flowers with gleaming white throats. I once planted a package of a pink cultivar, C. ‘Pink Giant’, but it hasn’t pleased me very well. The flowers are larger than the blue species, but the pink colour is too pale, and the bulbs don’t spread at all (perhaps the result of hybridizing). But honestly, I shouldn’t whine about anything that comes up reliably in early spring!
Glory of the snow is joined by the familiar dark blue scilla (Scilla siberica) about a week later. The scillas march through everything and have infiltrated the ranks of Chionodoxa, blooming together to make a dynamic multi-hued blue carpet. Rising shoulder to shoulder with the scilla is Puschkinia scilloides, known as striped squill or Lebanon squill. If you’re not familiar with these little squills, it would a good thing to add some to your garden. Striped squills really are the icing on the cake, with their frilled white flowers with a light blue stripe through every petal. They look like white lace on the ground, and will be with you forever.
I’m all in favour of minor bulbs that naturalize through the beds, but I realize not everyone welcomes the spread of plants with a marching map of their own. So, where and how far do they go? In my garden, these minor bulbs seem to prefer moist, part-shade areas, and don’t venture out into dry soil and full sunlight. They will carpet a forest floor, if you happen to have one. The glory of the snow and striped squills stay within the garden beds, and I wouldn’t consider them invasive in a northern climate, although in warmer regions they are sometimes thought to be (it’s really a matter of climate and opinion).
The scilla are another matter, and after 20 years I do have single seedling scillas popping up occasionally in the lawn. I think it’s a charming effect and causes me no alarm. When I consider some of the more obnoxious plant constituents in the lawn (such as thistles), scillas are a welcome improvement. I hope they spread more quickly now they have a foothold.
I know after many decades, a spring scilla lawn can be the result of seedling spread. It doesn’t seem to discourage the growth of turf grass, which begins growing as the scillas finish, and the first mowing cuts them both. The scilla foliage disappears, and doesn’t crowd the grass or compete for moisture and nutrients. It’s an ideal plant partnership. I guess I’m just a wild thing.
Other posts by Judith this week:
Posts by Judith last week: