How to grow fritillaries – Country Life

The exotic snake-headed fritillary is the only British native of this charming family of 130 bulbs, many of which deserve a place in the garden. John Hoyland, horticultural consultant at Glyndebourne in East Sussex, recommends the best and shares tips on how to grow them, plus more tips from botanist and fritillaria specialist Lawrence Hill.

Expert advice on growing hazel grouse

1. Sit them on their side

bulbs of both imperial fritillaria And F. peach can rot in damp soil, so plant them on their side or lay them on a layer of sand to prevent moisture from entering the crown. Plant them about three times deeper than the bulb. After a few years, both will produce a lot of foliage and will not bloom, which is a sign that they are overcrowded. Carefully dig up the bulbs in late spring, divide and replant immediately, adding plenty of fresh compost.

2. Plant in damp places

Types such as Fritillaria meleagris, F. pyrenaica, F. grapefox And F. akmopetala tolerant of most soils, but spreads fastest in moist soils. F. assyriaca, F. elwesi, F. Mikhailovsky And F. pontica should be in well-drained soil in full sun.

Fritillaria Imperialis complements this spring border beautifully in the gardens of the Tudor treasure Coughton Court, near Alcester in Warwickshire, where it gathers the brilliant burgundy leaves of Bergenia cordifolia and Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’. ©Clive Nichols

3. Grow them both indoors and outdoors

To appreciate the grace and elegance of grouse flowers, grow them in pots where you can closely examine the flowers. The collection of containers on the table next to the house is just as rewarding as the most extravagantly planted border.

4. Be careful where you put them

Grouse expert Lawrence Hill calls this “the most important aspect of growing grouse.” The growing medium should be both free-draining and water-retaining. Lawrence offers a compost mix based on loam, sand, humus (leaf humus or bark), and perlite.

For potted grouse, use a mixture of about two parts compost (John Innes No. 2 is ideal) with one part sand. Replant the bulbs in late summer using fresh compost.

5. You can plant a hazel grouse in your lawn

The best grouse for naturalization in grass are Fritillaria meleagris, F. grapefox, F. pyrenaica And F. elwesi. In all cases, leave mowing until early September to give the plants a chance to both self-seed and die back naturally.

The famous hazel grouse in a meadow at Magdalen College, Oxford.

6. Keep it simple and leave the difficult options to the experts

Stick to the easy-to-grow plants mentioned below. Many of the other species are demanding plants that require a lot of care to thrive. The greenhouses at Kew and at the Cambridge Botanic Gardens (which houses the National Collection of this genus) are filled with pots of these hazel grouses in the spring. Admire them there, grown by connoisseurs, and at home, focus on those species that are more attentive to us simple gardeners.

If you’re trying to find trickier views from the Mediterranean – F. forbesia from Turkey for example, or F. biflora, from the south coast of California – Lawrence Hill suggests you might need a greenhouse to shelter them from winter frost and summer rain; similarly, F. golden And F. gibbos require very careful watering during the cold months, although not very much.

Eight best grouse to grow

Fritillaria meleagris

There are about 130 types of fritillaria bulbs, only one of which grows in the UK. hazel grouse snake head, Fritillaria meleagris, can be seen most spectacularly in the water meadows near Magdalen College, Oxford. Moist grassland soil provides ideal growing conditions for the plant, but it is tolerant of a wide range of situations and has even naturalized in gardens on the dry, chalky soil of the South Downs. The charm of its broad-shouldered bells and the exquisite checkered pattern of the petals have allowed this plant to be cultivated for centuries. The flowers range from deep purple to dark pink, with occasional white seedlings.

Snake head hazel grouse (Fritillaria meleagris).

Fritillaria meleagris best sown or planted in wet wildflower meadows and cut in late summer (when grown from seed, it takes four years to flower). It will grow equally well in a damp border with little shading. Fritillaria montana And F. pyrenaica (bottom) can be planted in similar places.

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imperial fritillaria

Although this genus has flowers in a wide variety of shapes and habits, few are as luxuriant as imperial fritillaria. Most of them in soothing shades of purple, mauve and green are unpretentious. Vita Sackville-West unkindly described them as “gloomy dark” flowers that “stain the earth”.

Fritillaria Imperialis, sometimes called the reverse tulip, grows wild in the mountains in some areas, such as here on Mount Salavan in the Elbistan region of the Turkish province of Kahramanmaras. (Photo by Ali Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

For many gardeners, however, this discreet palette of colors is a welcome antidote to the bright yellow daffodils, dirty pink hyacinths, and bright red tulips that dominate this season. Drifting humble green and red bells Fritillaria acmopetala, for example, is as seductive and charming as everything else in the garden in spring. As easy to grow and widely available, F. Mikhailovskypixie flowers of bright mahogany with a wide golden border.

F. michailovskyi loves full sun. ©Clive Nichols

Fritillaria elwesii

An elegant, airy plant with 1-foot-tall wiry stems that support two or three long, narrow flowers. The petals are striped deep maroon and yellowish green. It grows well in containers, but it is a vigorous species, so after enjoying it in a pot, plant the bulbs in the garden.

Vigorous F. elwesii is good in a pot and can be replanted in the garden. ©Clive Nichols

Fritillaria grape vixen

Although this Iranian species was not introduced to the UK until the 1960s, it quickly became popular, due in part to the ease with which it establishes large colonies. Although the narrow mahogany bluebells are gold-rimmed and usually appear singly, this is variable and sometimes two or three flowers appear on the same stem. It grows to about 18 inches tall.

F. uva-vulpis, introduced from Iran, spreads well when grown in moist soil. ©Clive Nichols

Fritillaria persica ‘Adiyaman’

Named after the Turkish city where it was discovered, this cultivar is far superior to this species, with larger flowers and more vibrant foliage. The flowers are almost black and open like Merlot grapes. Blue-gray foliage emerges from the soil as early as February, and by March the plant is in full bloom.

F. persica, as John Gerard wrote in 1597, was popular in London gardens. ©Clive Nichols

Fritillaria Imperialis ‘William Rex’

The bells of the flower at the top are painted bronze, and this color is repeated on the thick stems. The foliage is broad and glossy. It is less temperamental than other species and thickens quickly into impressive clumps.

Less finicky than many other species, Fritillaria Imperialis ‘William Rex’ soon clumps. ©Clive Nichols

Fritillaria pallidiflora

It only does well in humus-rich, well-drained soil in dappled shade. If you can provide this, it will reward you with vibrant creamy yellow bluebells throughout April. The dove-gray foliage grows up to 16 inches tall, with each stem topped with four or five flowers.

Fritillaria pallidiflora needs humus-rich soil. ©Clive Nichols

Fritillaria pyrenaica

In the wild, it grows in alpine meadows and is strong enough to survive the harsh conditions of the British border or even tough grass. The bells are slightly mosaic in the manner of hazel grouse in the form of a snake’s head and are bordered with gold. It grows to about 1 foot tall and sometimes has two or even three bluebells hanging from the top of the stem.

F. pyrenaica is hardy enough to be grown in borders. ©Alami

History of hazel grouse

When imperial fritillaria first arrived in Vienna, in 1576, it made a splash. As part of the first wave of unfamiliar plants from Constantinople to Europe, it soon spread throughout the gardens of the continent. 3 feet tall, with brightly colored flowers and a naughty tuft of leaves, it’s easy to imagine how spectacular its appearance must have been. He is depicted in many paintings of the period, and a 1626 still life by Johannes Bosschaert is known to show a huge imperial fritillaria dominant on the canvas, overshadowing all the fancy tulips, anemones and other exotic plants that worried collectors of that time. It is clear that the imperial crown, as it began to be called, he considered the highest. Today, he remains a dramatic presence, still capable of eliciting gasps of surprise.

imperial fritillaria has become a pillar of the spring borders, where it proudly and brightly rises above tulips, hyacinths and daffodils. Throughout April, the bell-shaped flowers hang from hard stems, attracting pollinating insects to the nectar droplets that form at the base of each flower. From its first deployment, the plant makes itself felt with its pungent, foxy smell: for some, this is an unpleasant, even nauseating smell; for others it is one of the scents of spring, a sign of the awakening of the garden.

Early passion for hazel grouse was not limited imperial fritillaria. The attention of plant collectors was also attracted by the spiers of chocolate-colored bells. F. peach, the stems of which are densely strewn with flowers that have a silvery sheen. John Gerard wrote in 1597 that the species was widespread in London gardens, which he said was the result of “travelers’ trade”. No mention of the hard work of those gardeners who struggled in clay soil to provide well-drained conditions for the bulbs. Recently, a variety has appeared F. peach Cream colored ‘Ivory Bells’ was introduced. Merged together, these two forms create a breathtaking spectacle.

Why should we praise the Magdalen Fellows for ignoring Repton’s advice and letting the hazel grouse bloom?

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