Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Very Cool Bulb

Fritillaria persica
Day 86
The Daily DuBrule

Today I walked through the gardens at Natureworks, amazed at all of the new plants up and blooming. This really wonderful bulb plant caught my eye. Fritillaria persica is really stunning. The soft blue leaves are topped by dangling deep purple flowers. These particular bulbs were planted almost 20 years ago. At that time we had a golden leaved barberry next to it. (We have since removed all barberries from the gardens). It was a stunning combination. Over time, the barberry got too big and this bulb wasn't seen for years. When the barberry was replaced with a white Callicarpa, the early spring light this late sprouting shrub allowed gave my Fritillarias a new lease on life. They have been thriving ever since.

We call Fritillarias "stinky bulbs". My retail staff banishes the bulb bins to the fertilizer shed or else the shop smells like a skunk when you walk in each morning in the fall. Many people miss them, but I always try to plant them in my client's gardens. They are just so unusual and dramatic. Plus, they are vole and deer proof, probably due to the aroma. The trick to planting them is to plant the bulb with the top facing downward at a 45 degree angle. The bulbs are hollow in the middle and if planted right side up they fill with water and rot. Who knew? Once I learned that trick, I have had excellent luck with Fritillarias ever since.

One final note: Fritillarias are alternate hosts for the dreaded red lily leaf beetle. I scout them first, long before the lilies make an appearance. They are a good indicator for when this pest arrives and by squishing any beetles you see in early April you can get a handle on the first breeding population. That is really important right now. Last night I squished NINE red lily leaf beetles on a clump of old fashioned tiger lilies by my garage entrance. I admit that once I saw one beetle, I was a madwoman on the hunt. I pulled all the debris aside under the lilies and found lots of them hiding.  

This fall, explore the world of Fritillarias. There are tall ones and short one, purple, yellow, orange and red ones. Some are striped. Some are bicolored. It's an intriguing genus.

1 comment:

  1. I need some of those beetles in a jar... Don't squoosh them all! :)