While we have our share of daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and the like, there is also an attraction here to the little oddballs of the bulb world, the Fritillaria ssp. Fritillaria is a genus in the Liliaceae family distributed throughout Europe and North Africa (especially around the Mediterranean), temperate Asia and North America. Most of them have pendant flowers but many of these are not brilliantly colored, although they may have attractive markings. Some of the species have a “foxy” odor. The name of the genus is said to come from the latin fritillus or dice box. Many of the species have spotted or checked flowers. Fritillary or fritillaries is also a common name for butterflies in the family Nymphalidae, again deriving from their patterned wings. John Gerrard, page 123, in his book published in 1597, says the name may derive from the tables at which chess or dice was played, frittillo.
Several of the little fritts have performed well in the Fairegarden. One species that has gone above and beyond the call of duty is Fritillaria meleagris, the checkered lily.
The name meleagris means ‘spotted like a guinea fowl’. We began with a planting of five bulbs. When those proved to be happy here, many more were added. It is hoped they will seed about to make a grand show someday.
In the mixture of colors, some are solid white. The spots are aphids, sad to say. But there have been lady beetles spotted in the garden, and they will gobble up these nasty juice-suckers. If these bad bugs are too annoying before that happens, I will give them a hard squirt with the water hose, no need for nasty chemical pesticides at all.
Another little fritt well represented here is Fritillaria uva-vulpis, synonymous with F. assyriaca. The common name is fox’s grape, and the color and shape do suggest single grapes. Mass quantities of these very small bulbs were planted along the forty foot wall behind the main house, the first fall after the wall was constructed, in 2001.
Said to be the easiest to grow of the fritts, the colors of brownish maroon with a yellow band are quite subtle, not very showy alone. But as this shot with Muscari armeniacum, grape hyacinths shows, it plays well with others.
Newly added in the fall of 2010 was a patch of Fritillaria pontica along the double wall that had been a condo for voles. After digging out the dirt and lining it with hardware cloth cages, laying sharp gravel in the bottom, then putting the dirt back, we are proud to say that all of the bulbs were unscathed. Click here for the entire story.
Please excuse my gardener’s fingers in many of these shots. The flowers hang downward and the pretty parts need to be showcased with a little human help. This little fritt is also said to be among the easiest and should naturalize here. We like naturalizing things!
Newly added in the fall of 2011, Fritillaria davisii, all five of them, were planted along a newly dug edging in the white/yellow garden. These are really tiny plants, only a few inches tall. They get lost with the similar color violas, in fact. Perhaps they need to be moved to a better location for viewing, and picture taking. Those days of easily laying flat on my stomach on gravel paths to do some garden snapping with the camera are getting more and more difficult with each passing year.
There have been other fritts planted here that either did not return, as the case with Fritillaria raddeana, above, or never came up at all, like Fritillaria persica. It is fun to try new things, especially new plant type things. If some end up doing well and liking the neglectful conditions here, the entire enterprise can be considered a success. For in the realm of bulbs, more is never enough.