Mary Sue Ittner
Mon, 05 Apr 2004 08:38:08 PDT
Note from Mary Sue--Alberto sent me the introduction for this topic of the 
week before his surgery. Since he is not online he will not be able to 
field questions about this genus. I hope all of you who grow any of the 
species will tell us which ones you grow and how they do in your climates. 
Since Alberto mentions in his introduction that these can be hard to find a 
source for seeds and bulbs would be a nice addition to what he has written. 
There are only a couple of pictures on our wiki so if any of you have 
photographs of some of these species that Alberto mentions please add them 
to the wiki so we can all see what they look like. Thanks.

Mary Sue
TOW Coordinator

Dear all:
              I offered to write a short introduction to Bellevalia which 
is among my favorite bulbs. This preference may be difficult to explain but 
if I had to recommend them I would insist on the fact that they are among 
the most dependable of all. Year after year they will give an early spring 
show with the minimum of care. Much like the easier Muscaris. There are 
about 50 species in the genus but most are brown flowered. Only a small 
handful of species is really attractive and they show the best of the blue 
shades available in the bulb world, very striking. Unfortunately it is also 
very difficult to obtain these species in the trade and one often receives 
just anything instead, mostly Bellevalia romana but also Muscaris. These 
are bulbs for cool to cold winter climates, say USDA zone 9 or lower and 
can be very hardy and grown wild in mostly alpine pastures in Europe and 
the Middle East. In warmer climates they must be given a cool position and 
morning sun but may not be very permanent under these conditions. The root 
system is annually produced and it is best not to dry the bulbs off too 
much when dormant in summer. They need a neutral to alkaline well drained 
soil. Bulbs must be planted in autumn and will be dormant for the summer. 
Propagation is from offsets (not freely produced) and from seed. The seeds 
are distinctive and have a waxy covering that makes them look rather bluish 
and are comparatively very large and round.

Recommended species are:
B. forniculata: sterile flowers bright blue
B. glauca: sterile flowers a most striking shade of enamel blue
B. pycnantha: all flowers blackish blue with yellowish margins to the lobes
B. dubia: in some forms the sterile flowers an intense mid blue
B. paradoxa : deep navy blue flowers
B. romana, all flowers cream  and black anthers looking like a Roman 
hyacinth somehow
B. atroviolacea, flowers a deep indigo
B. hyacinthoides, a species long known as Strangweia spicata, flowers a 
lovely sky blue. This needs warmer summer conditions to remain permanent.

Since there is a good deal of confusion on Muscari and allied genera, below 
are mentioned the main features that can tell these genera apart

Hyacinthus, loose raceme of funnel or tube shaped flowers with spreading 
recurved lobes approximately as long as the tube. Flowers very fragrant. 
Stamens inserted in the lower part of the tube. Style short with a capitate 

Bellevalia, long raceme. Flowers campanulate with a short to long perianth 
tube and six lobes with the stamens attached just inside the mouth of the 
perianth.  Two types of flowers, infertile ones in certain species very 
colorful on the upper part of the inflorescence, the fertile ones usually 
pale or dark dull olive brown. Seeds covered with a waxy bloom.

Muscari, flowers strongly constricted at the mouth, obovate, ovoid or 
tubular.  The tube is what we usually take for the "flower" the actual 
perianth lobes being very minute teeth like portions at the mouth

Hyacinthella, the bulbs look "powdered" with crystals. Two leaves with 
prominent fibre strands, loose racemes, tubular or campanulate flowers. 
Dark blue anthers held just within the mouth of the tube. The perianth 
remains attached to the developing ovary during the fruiting stage (this 
doesn't occur in Bellevalia and Muscari)

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