Monday, December 10, 2007

Musky Bananas?

Muscari macrocarpum is ... well, odd. Rather than the usual round purple flowers of most of the other muscari (hence, the common name grape hyacinths), this species has flowers which start out greyish-purple, changing to bright yellow, and looking more like a little bunch of bananas. My bulbs are specifically the cultivar 'Golden Fragrance', brought to the commercial market by the Dutch bulb growers a few years ago; at first rather pricey, it is now down to about a dollar a bulb. It is said by some to smell like ripe grapes in the sun; others say like ripe bananas... to me it has a faint sweet smell reminiscent of nothing in particular (I think my nose has no imagination or skill). The genus muscari is endemic the the area around the Mediterranean and up through Turkey into the Caucasus; the muscari page of the Pacific Bulb Society states that this particular species grows in the warmer, more southern range of the genus, in SW Turkey through the Aegean to Crete. Thus, it is rated as somewhat tender (some say zone 7), but three Iowa winters (5a) have not ruffled its feathers. It's also said to be frost sensitive, but I've not noted that, either. I may have unwittingly saved my plants from late spring frost damage by planting the bulbs in a spot that's a bit too shady, so the growth is retarded a little in the early spring. In nature, Muscari macrocarpum grows on rocky, sunny, rather dry cliffs. The downside to my bulb placement is that my plants are a little floppy and probably bloom a little less profusely than they might have in full sun. This next summer when the foliage dies down, I may dig up the bulbs (which are surprisingly large, being about the size of a tulip bulb) and move them to a spot on a sunny slope. I have read they have rather long roots, so I may try it with just one of my three bulbs... these are the same three bulbs I started out with, as this muscaris (in contrast with many of its brethren in the genus) is very slow to multiply, which is the reason it is somewhat more expensive than the various grape hyacinth types of muscari. The foliage of Golden Fragrance is greyish green and rather daffodil-like.
If you don't already grow this bulb, it is worth obtaining for its unique coloration... then you can tell me what you think it smells like.
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And just how close must one's nose be to the flower to be able smell it? Not that it matters greatly, but my imagination has conjured an interesting image! ;-)

I must get my drawing pencil and paper! ha.
Shady... my nose, a foot.
This autumn was the first time I planted this kind of muscari bulbs in my garden. Now I am waiting!!!
In my new post is a surprice for you. I hope you enjoy it.

Have a good week Wurzerl
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