Jane McGary
Mon, 08 Dec 2003 11:50:06 PST
Thanks to Jerry Flintoff for a remarkably complete commentary on Scilla in 
cultivation! I have a vague memory of having posted a few Scilla photos to 
the PBS wiki some time ago, but I cannot access it at the moment to check. 
In any case, the Scilla page is worth a look.

I live not too far from Jerry but in a colder, more elevated part of the 
Pacific Northwest, so he can grow some species outdoors that I have to keep 
in unheated frames. A number of scillas, like their relatives the muscaris, 
produce foliage in fall, and this can be damaged by wet, freezing weather, 
though cold alone seems to do less harm than rain plus frost.

Scillas are very easy to grow from seed, and the seed, easily collected, is 
widely available in exchanges and specialists' lists. They typically 
germinate the first season and flower in 3 to 4 years from sowing. Most of 
them increase at only a moderate rate by offsets, though a few (S. 
scilloides, S. liliohyacinthus, S. greilhuberi come to mind) make a great 
many new bulbs.

Some notes on Jerry's comments:
 > Much rarer and less
>willing to increase by seed or bulb is the lovely S.melaina with mid-dark 
>flowers, a great favorite

It was quite a struggle to raise this from seed, and one batch of seed 
obtained under this name (from an exchange) was nothing but Hyacinthoides 
italica. However, I did have one apparently true batch flower for the first 
time last spring. The flowers were relatively small.

 > Two others that have been much confused and good
>also in shady position are S. hohenhackeri and S. greilhuberi.  Scilla
>greilhuberi puts out leaves in early autumn and bears 10 inch racemes of 
>pendent blue
>bells-it bears quite a few leaves- perhaps too many.

I have seen the spelling "hohenackeri" -- is it instead "hohenhackeri"? I 
agree about S. greilhubderi being too leafy and have banished it from the 
bulb frame for this reason, even though it does not like the wet freezing 
winters outdoors; still, it has survived outdoors about 5 years in ordinary 
well-drained soil, dry in summer and, as Jerry notes, rather shaded.

> > S. ramburi  has naturalized itself in
>a sunny spots here.

I have this under the spelling "ramburei." It deserves more attention. It's 
from southern Iberia and North Africa and is particularly pretty with its 
combination of pure blue-lavender flowers and glaucous, rather broad, stiff 
leaves. It increases well and sets plenty of seed, some of which I donated 
to the NARGS exchange this year, so everybody who belongs to NARGS can try it.

>Another with much broader leaves, S. messeniaca will also
>naturalize in ordinary garden beds.

This species suffers in the winter here, again through damage to the foliage.

>Somewhat similar, S.liliohyacinthus has
>a bulb that mimics somehow a lily bulb; it does well in shade but didn't
>increase much in a former garden.

I planted this in the foreground of a sunny border with very rich soil, 
where it increased vigorously.

>bright blue S. bifolia with its pink and white forms is rather well known 
>and a
>worthy plant for naturalizing.

I think the pink form is an ugly, indeterminate color. The blue form, 
however, is very cheerful in early spring and self-sows widely (don't let 
it loose among potted plants). If you are also growing Chionodoxa, you may 
end up with the hybrid xChionoscilla.

      For  late summer/autumn S. scilloides (also incorrectly grown as
>S.nubiensis, which is a distinct species from N. Africa )

I think the misnomer that somehow got attached to this plant in North 
America is "S. numidica," not "nubiensis." Jim Waddick and I recently 
corresponded about pink-flowered autumnal scillas, of which he has several, 
some from far eastern Asia. These really need sorting out. S. scilloides 
has attractive reddish foliage in the early stage of growth. It is an 
excellent garden plant in many regions.

 >S. autumnale is borderline hardy
>here and is a collector's plant.

By which Jerry means that it is extremely small and puny in appearance!

>Following upon its heels is S.intermedia
>another collector's only plant,

This one is not so small, but its rather tall inflorescence is sparse, and 
the little flowers pale pinkish lavender.

Regarding the welcome appendix on Hyacinthoides, the hybrid H. x 
massartiana is also commonly naturalized in western Oregon, sometimes in 
places where it must have arisen from yard debris dumped in the woods. It 
is a coarse plant in comparison to its parents. The only way to get the 
real Hyacinthoides non-scripta (English bluebell) in the USA seems to be 
growing it from seed obtained in the wild in England -- often available in 
exchanges. My colony has been badly shaded out by some big shrubs 
(Corylopsis, a beautiful combination however) and so I relocated some of it 
this summer. I like H. reverchonii, grown from the Archibalds' seed, and 
have moved quite a bit of it into the garden this year, since it's overly 
vigorous in the frame.

Jerry did not mention one name that gardeners may encounter: Scilla 
litardierei, often seen as "litardieri." A synonym is S. pratensis. This 
hardy plant from the mountains of east central Europe is similar in 
appearance to S. liliohyacinthus. Those I bought as S. pratensis seem to be 
this species, but some I bought from McClure and Zimmerman many years ago 
as S. litardieri turned out to be Hyacinthoides campanulata in a mixture of 

In addition to the species Jerry mentioned, I'm growing S. haemorrhoidalis 
(broad, tender leaves, North African), hughii (purchased from Telos Bulbs), 
mauretanica (North African but resistant to frost and quite vigorous), 
neglecta (only young plants so far), obtusifolia (autumnal, similar to 
intermedia but more compact).

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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