Garden Diary - April 2013

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Thursday, 25 April 2013
Salvaging Scilla litardierei

I was foraging for spring greens. Someone guided me to a patch of Japanese knotweed, then left for a meeting. I cut a couple dozen stems, planning to make an apple knotweed crumble. (By the way, I'm teaching a simple foraging class at Rutgers Gardens on June 1st. More information here.) My car was parked across the road at a house for sale, long time sitting on the market.

I noticed some ostrich ferns and walked over to see if any were young enough to forage.
And coming up amidst the coppery new leaves of poison ivy were these blue flowered bulbs.

They look like some sort of Scilla, but it is not one that I recognize. Smaller than S. peruviana
which, in any event, would not be hardy around here. I took a number of pictures and headed home.

Somebody sampled some of the leaves. A foraging rabbit, perhaps?

I put a picture up on the Pacific Bulbs Society's wiki as a mystery bulb. And rather quickly an answer was returned - Scilla pratensis, Amethyst Meadow Squill. Except, another member pointed out, that name is no longer valid. Now it is Scilla litardierei. These are not the only names that have been assigned to it. My 1991 edition of the International Checklist for Hyacinths and Miscellaneous Bulbs offers albanica, amethystina, and italica as alternate names under which this bulb was formerly known. It was introduced to England in 1827 and has become much more easily available since 2004, the year in which Scilla litardierei was given an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

I thought about it, and went back the next day and dug three clumps. Brought them home
and potted them up, the larger ones individually and the smaller ones by threes and fours.
Once they go dormant, I'll give them a more permanent home here at BelleWood Gardens.

It's like this: The house has been up for sale long enough that the sheets of plywood nailed over the windows and doors have weathered to silver gray. Animals - possibly squirrels, maybe raccoons - have gnawed holes in the corners of some and moved in. Once the property is sold I believe the house will be knocked down and the site will be landscraped. Plants will be ground up and destroyed under the bulldozer's treads. Walking around the property I found narcissus, one pink hyacinth. . . and these scilla. Someone once had a garden here, and I'm sure it was loved. In case I'm wrong, the majority of the little blue no-longer-a-mystery bulbs remain, and a future owner will have a pleasant surprise. But if I'm correct, then a few have been salvaged to bloom again in the years ahead. In my very much loved garden.

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