Wednesday, March 15, 2006
When this little bulb first bloomed in our garden, ten years ago, I mused over what to call its color; an ephemeral mix of white, and clean blue. A couple of years later, we remodeled the living room of our house, and Liz chose a light blue carpet, and wanted the walls painted in white, but with a subtle hint of blue that would mirror the carpet... the paint she chose was called "skycloud", and as soon as I heard the name, I knew that is what I would call the color of this little squill, for it reminds me of those old Dutch landscape paintings by Ruysdael, where the white clouds and the blue sky are all mixed together by the wind. This is the first squill to bloom, beginning right after the snowdrops, and along with crocus and cyclamen coum. When it first starts to bloom, as above, it looks unpromising, as it is in such a hurry to open its blooms for the first bees, that its flowers start opening just as they emerge from the soil, often getting a little dirty in the process. The flower stalks then rapidly rise to about four inches, and are literally crowded with these ravishingly subtle flowers, that are huge for the size of the plant. The actual Latin name is Scilla mischtschekoana, but probably due to the brutality of its given species name, it is commonly called Scilla tubergeniana (Sill-ah too-ber-jin-ee-ah-nah). It is named after the Dutch bulb firm, Van Tubergen, which introduced this little plant to the west in 1931 from its native Persia and the Caucasus. Van Tubergen was founded in 1868, and is still in the bulb business. Scilla tubergeniana has a long bloom time, and is said to tolerate more shade than most other squills. It is hardy in zones 4-8 (possibly even zone 3). It's fragrance is pretty faint, but that doesn't seem to discourage the bees, as I usually have to brush off a bee or two to get a picture. I have a patch of these growing with some early Juliana primroses, in front of a grey boulder, and it's one of my favorite stops in the early spring.