Almost in a vase on a Monday………

Scillas in a vase
Primroses in a vase
Primroses and Scillas

This year spring is a cold affair with a penetrating northerly wind imprisoning the landscape in monochrome frigidity. As I walk down to the cottage garden across the field there is not a daisy, celandine or dandelion with a floral offering to welcome Persephone to these norther shores. However, in the shelter of the garden the primroses are so abundant that I could not resist the temptation to pick enough for a tussie-mussie to take some spring sunshine into the house. Foliage is always in short supply at this time of year, but there are usually enough aquilegia leaves to garnish a posy and  there were a few sprigs of scilla to be gleaned from the orchard to complete the arrangement.

I often have good intention, but I rarely manage to contribute to Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme and so I was feeling quite pleased with the prospect of being able to contribute two very minimalist, small vases. This was fine until I realised that I did not know which species of Scilla I had picked.  This was my downfall as I was distracted from my original purpose. Not content to check the species in The European Garden Flora ( an invaluable work for every gardening botanist as it provides identification keys to cultivated ornamental flowering plants), I went back to the garden to photograph the scillas in the orchard and took the opportunity to photograph the Siberian squill (Scilla siberica) which were in flower in the walled cottage garden. I was now completely distracted and frittered away my time reading about the various species of Scilla, looking to see which species we were growing in the greenhouse and searching for photographs in my archive. Once again I was too late and my “in a vase on Monday”  became a ponderous posy.

Alpine Squill Scilla bifolia
Alpine Squill Scilla bifolia

There are over 90 species of Scilla which occur in Europe, Asia and southern Africa, of which I currently have two species naturalised in the garden, S. bifolia in the orchard and S. siberica in the cottage garden. The bulbs were purchased commerically, so I suspect that they are both named cultivars, particularly the Siberian squill which are a beautiful rich blue. Peversely S. siberica originates from  the Caucasus and south-west Russia, not Siberia. I did not have a great deal of success in finding the etymology of botanical name of the genus, except that it may be from the Greek skil’a, hence the common name of squill.

Siberian Squill Scilla siberica
Siberian Squill Scilla siberica

After the primroses the squills are the earliest of the bulbs to flower in the garden, but in the islands the native species, the spring squill Scilla verna, does not flower until May or June. It also has quite a restricted distribution in the Outer Hebrides, the east coast of southern Lewis and northern Harris, the islands beyond the southern tip of the Uists – Eriskay, Barra, Mingulay and some of the smaller islands, so it always a pleasure to find this very delicate species nestling in the coastal grassland.

Spring Squill, Scilla verna, on Mingulay
Spring Squill, Scilla verna, on Mingulay

8 thoughts on “Almost in a vase on a Monday………

  1. Ali

    Love your enthusiasm for this little bulb. One of my favourites too.

    • They are very unassuming, but have a delicate prettiness that is just right for a minimalist posy. If you can get them to naturalise they can form a stunning blue carpet.

  2. Well, OK, it is Tuesday, but please give yourself some credit for your achievement as it was IAVOM in all but the day you posted 🙂 Your two very minimalist, small vases are bothe very pretty and will no doubt bring you great pleasure when you raise your head from your botanical books and see them. Despite your distraction, I have thoroughly enjoyed your quest to name the scillas and am pleased you were thus distracted – thank you ! 🙂

    • Thank you Cathy, generous as ever. I like the concept of having a posy vase on my desk, but alas I fear it would be rapidly demolished by a pile of books and papers.

  3. Primroses and scillas what could be prettier? I have both S.siberica and bifolia and later Scilla litardierei which is very pretty.

    • As always you are an inspiration. I have a clump of scillas which came from a previous life and have thrived in the cottage garden sans label. They flower in June and each year I never quite get round to giving them a name. All it needed was a prompt from a knowledgeable gardener, of course they are S.litardierei. However, I will check and perhaps get round to photographing the flowers. Thank you!

  4. I love both these plants, but sadly never remember to buy scilla when I should (I think obsessive tulipmania takes over my thoughts at that time of year). There is nothing nicer than their clear blue.

    • I wouldn’t be without scillas in my garden, they are so delicate but en mass have a spectular impact. I could get the tulip bug too, but as I can only grow the dwarf species, I’ve not become too obcessive (yet)!

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