Friday, December 14, 2007


There are (depending on whether you are a 'lumper' or a 'splitter') somewhere between 30 and 60 species of muscari; they are commonly called grape hyacinths, some being more grape-like than others. Muscaris armeniacum is the commercially most commonly available species, and is best called the grape hyacinth. I don't know at the moment how many species and varieties I grow, as the garden is currently entombed by ice, but here is a sampling from last spring: at top is M. Valerie Finnis, which is probably a variety of M. neglectum. It is renowned for its powdery, blue-gray color, and spreads easily. Below that is a plant that was purchased as Muscaris paradoxum, but has taxonomically now been nudged to another genus as Bellevalia pycnatha.Third is Muscaris Dark Eyes, probably a variety or seedling of M. pallens. Below are grape hyacinths with daffodils.
Muscari grow basically in the region around the Mediterranean up through the Caucasus, an area of the world that is the cradle of hardy flower bulbs. Some are confined to the southern portions of the Mediterranean area and are therefore tender, but most of the species, if available, would have a chance of growing here in Iowa, given some sun and sandy soil.
These are the days, when ice crunches under your feet as you trudge uphill to get the newspaper, that you start day-dreaming about spring, with drifts of early flowering bulbs buzzing with bees in the warm sunshine. Next spring I will have a few new varieties of muscari to look at, and hope to add more next fall. For pictures and descriptions of different species of muscari, it's hard to beat the muscaris website of Martin Phillipo, a grower and muscaris collector in the Netherlands: Muscaripages.
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I love these little "fellows." I look forward to adding different varieties.

Off the subject. Have you any experience Gaultheria procumbens "Wintergreen?" I'm currently in the midst of ordering for Spring (!) and ran across this as a ground cover for semi-shady spots, acid soil lover with adequate moisture. Says it's 2 - 8 inches tall (!) and songbirds love its berries.

What do you think?
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