Plant crush on Fritillaria raddeana...(blush)
Every so often something comes into your life that captivates you: for the late lamented Elizabeth Taylor it was husbands. I have a few friends that fall in love every few days with someone new (a charming, if somewhat problematical trait). For us plant geeks, our infatuations are somewhat less perilous to our well being. I fall in love with plants at the fall of a leaf. Right now I'm enchanted with Fritillaria raddeana. Frits are an acquired taste. Most are brownish or purplish (not the most thrilling of hues). Many are checkered and spotted and otherwise mottled. They are the plant equivalent of baroque music: intricate variations on a theme, leaving many people non-plussed. Poor them (the people, not the frits!) I, for one, dote on Vivaldi and Handel (and let's not even TALK about Boccherini, Albinoni, Scarlatti and the rest of those paragons whose names so sensibly end in "i"!)...to carry the tenuous metaphor one stage further, this Frit is a veritable Bachian cantata! The Crown Imperial has been a garden classic in the West since the Elizabethan era at least, and the flamboyant scarlet, orange or yellow trumpets merit all their renaissance clamour. This relatively unfamiliar fritillaria is obviously allied to them with the same ruff of foliage on top of the stem, but it is altogether smaller, more graceful and a good month earlier to bloom in the garden. And it seems even more accommodating to the gardener as well. And suddenly it's widely available in the mail order bulb trade. For a price of course. I couldn't resist finally shelling out the ten or fifteen bucks for a bulb. Alas, this year I will have to shell out more since who can have just one? Chartreuse is not usually my favorite color, but among the acid yellow drabas blooming nearby and the hot pinks of Tulipa humilis and the brash blue of reticulate iris and muscari, this cool as a cucumber green delights. According to literature sources, it ranges in the wild from Turkmenistan (in the former Soviet Union) through to Iran and Kashmir--a rather extensive (and scenic) range in nature. It is also purportedly grown in China for medicinal purposes. Considering this came into bloom in mid March, it obviously has toughness in its consitution (which it may need as temperatures plummet into the lower twenties this coming week). In addition to my single plant, this has been planted in very different sites in Plantasia and also in Marcia Tatroe's garden in Centennial: each place it seems to grow with vigor and ease.
Tell me you aren't a tad beguiled yourself? I knew I was smitten when I went out five or six times last weekend into my garden, and made a beeline for this earliest and most amazing of Frits right past all the "minor" bulbs.... it's a major crush indeed!