Few sights are as beautiful as a meadow of Fritallaria meleagris - notable ones being in Oxford and Cricklade. These dainty bulbs, also known as the snake's head fritillary are made up of a chunky bell shaped flower bowing its head to the ground below. Purple with occasional whites, the petals are covered with a chequerboard pattern of dark and light squares - so attractive and intricate - nature at its best. It is happiest in a damp soil and loves growing in grass so ideal for naturalising in drifts. Alternatively they can be grown in pots (terracotta works best) and shown off in April and May when in bloom.
Often described as the Persian Lily, is Fritillaria persica. Tall spires of deep purple flowers, almost black like a grape, rise from the ground in March. The purple bells gather at the top half of the rigid stems, as many as 30 flowers per 70cm high spike. Give these a sunny spot with a little shelter and they will reward you with their regal presence year after year. A white version called 'Ivory Bells' is also available from Suttons.
Now for something with real drama and at the other end of the Fritillaria scale from meleagris, is the Crown Imperial. From 90cm tall thick stems, emerge large bells of flower hanging down from the top of the stem just below an intriguing topknot of green leaves. Growing in its natural habitat in areas such as western Iran and Kashmir, it is rather fond of residing in scrub amongst rocks, so will welcome an addition of some grit in the planting hole when starting off these huge bulbs. These really are the crown jewels of any garden and add real exotic splendour. Available in oranges and yellows, these aristocrats will be ready to outshine any other spring competitors!
Variety is the spice of life and in the world of fritillarias, you will certainly be spoilt for choice.
How deep should fritillaria bulbs be planted?
Plant Fritillaria bulbs 4 to 5 inches deep and about 6 inches apart. Plants the Fritillia bulbs in September and October.
How do you grow fritillaria bulbs?
- Most Fritillaria will grow in well-drained soil
- They like bright sunshine or a partial shade
- After planting water by gently soaking the soil
- Once in bloom you can cut the shorter fritillaria flowers
Buy Fritillaria bulbs online from Suttons