Monday, April 1, 2013

Grape expectations...

Muscari azureum
Few plants are more conspicuous by their absence in most people's gardens this time of year than grape hyacinths: Where you do see them, it's usually tousled mops of damaged foliage on the various passsalong sorts like M.armeniacum or M. neglectum, that produce long masses of foliage in the fall that suffers all winter and looks pretty sorry by the time they bloom in April. No wonder gardeners are gun shy about these plants. But there are in fact a wealth of very trim, welcome grape hyacinths that bring bright blue flowers (and other colors too) to the Spring garden, as well as their sweet perfume (if you bother to check!)...

Muscari azureum in my garden: never enough!
The most essential one to get if you don't already have it is M. azureum--which has gone by many other names. I have discussed this at length in another blog, but suffice it to say, this does self sow vigorously (I have it in every corner of my garden, and even out on the street)--but it is so small, delicate and tactful, you shan't mind...and what a blue! It is so inexpensive, there is no excuse for you not to have this gently weeding about your garden too!

Muscari chalusicum
I obtained this lovely two toned plant many years ago from Jane McGary (one of America's foremost growers of obscure bulbs) and it delights me every spring with a restrained mound of loveliness. One can never have enough of these recondite blue species in my opinion...

Bellevalia pycnantha (Thanks, Susan!)
There are a number of genera closely allied to Muscari including Bellevalia, Leopoldia, Pseudomuscari, which closely resemble grape hyacinths: this is one of the most striking with its dark, brooding heads...

Muscari botryoides 'Album'
There are no end of white Muscari lately--which sort of defeats the point. These are the supreme blue flowers of spring (OK--along with Chionodoxa, Scilla and Camassia of course..). Like white chocolate, their functionality is limited. But this one has persisted for years at Denver Botanic Gardens and neither been weedy, nor dwindled--a good thing in a plant.

Muscari 'Valerie Finnis'
My current favorite among the azure grape hyaciths is this one: easy and persistent--and not a weed (a good thing). And named for a great plantswoman...

Muscari latifolium
This one is biggish, seeds around a bit--but the foliage is compact enough (and disappears pretty promptly) so I don't mind. Its the best of the dark ones...

Muscari macrocarpum
And now for the sexpots of the genus--the anomalies--this yellow muscari is wonderfully fragrant and quite permanent if you can find the right spot. Here it is luxuriating at the Gardens at Kendrick Lake. It reminds me a lot of a Lachenalia--which come to think of it could be related pretty closely. You may find this as Muscari moschatum--well named for the fragrant flowers....This is rather restricted in wild range to the eastern Mediterranean, including my ancestral island of Crete.

Muscari muscarimi (or racemosum as the case may be)
When this first bloomed for me I thought I'd stumbled on an albino macrocarpum--and struck it rich. Well effectively that's the case (the former, not the latter). Only it's a good species--and a very fragrant one that is supposedly responsible for the generic name due to its musky fragrance. This has a simlar range to macrocarpum, only less known in gardens--but certainly worth getting. I tracked down a dozen more last fall, which I hope settle in...Google revealed some wonderfully subtle ones with pale blue tints and hints of yellow. I want them all!


  1. The mystery Muscari looks like Bellevalia pycnantha.

  2. I appreciate that, Susan! I changed it...(I now remember I ordered the Bellevalia)--Thanks!


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