Garden Diary - April 2011

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Saturday, 2 April 2011
Roadside Chionodoxa

Last month it was snowdrops growing with abandon along the side of the road. Such survivor bulbs, those that once planted manage to grow on their own, delight me. Perhaps as a child I was impressed by "The Secret Garden", written by Frances Hodgson Burnett. If you have also read it, remember when Mary has found her way into the secret garden? She discovers little green shoots emerging, and begins clearing away the grass that's crowding them. Later, at dinner, she asks the maid, "Martha," she said, "what are those white roots that look like onions?"

"They're bulbs," answered Martha. "Lots o' spring flowers grow from 'em. Th' very little ones are snowdrops an' crocuses an' th' big ones are narcissuses an' jonquils and daffydowndillys."

And then Mary asks, "Do bulbs live a long time? Would they live years and years if no one helped them?" inquired Mary anxiously.

"They're things as helps themselves," said Martha. "That's why poor folk can afford to have 'em. If you don't trouble 'em, most of 'em'll work away underground for a lifetime an' spread out an' have little 'uns."

It's not a secret garden, in fact they're quite visible from sidewalk and roadway, this second kind of survivor bulb.

See the wash of blue across the scruffy grass of this lot adjacent to the house? Glory of the snow
they're called, Chionodoxa forbesii. It used to be named Chionodoxa luciliae, and you'll find it
under either name in catalogs, depending on how taxonomically correct the company happens to be.
They thrive in sunny to somewhat shaded sites. Clearly the small, fall planted bulbs are long lived.

Native to western Turkey, this dainty little bulb is sturdier than its appearance might suggest, with 4
or more soft sky blue flowers, each accented with a large white central zone, on each stem. It was
introduced into Europe in 1880. The Royal Horticultural Society gave it an Award of Merit in 1976.

Persistence is one thing. Naturalization is another. Not that they've received a green card. Rather,
having come here from abroad chionodoxa are one of the plants that have made themselves at home.
Not a pest nor a weed, they weave themselves into the tapestry of the plant community. By seed and
offsets they spread around, adding their flowers to Spring and then, like a good house guest, departing.

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