Chionodoxa help

Jim McKenney
Mon, 07 Apr 2008 18:02:31 PDT
Mary Sue, I would say that Arnold’s image might be Chionodoxa sardensis
(Scilla sardensis) as I know it. As I grow it, this species has smaller
flowers and lacks the white at the base of the tepals. The color varies with
the age of the flower and the temperature. Flowers which have developed in
cold conditions are a very rich dark blue as in Scilla sibirica and
Tecophilaea. But the color quickly fades to the color shown in Arnold’s

Arnold, where do the flowers in your image fall in the overall size range of
glories of the snow? 

Rightly or wrongly, I rely on the smaller flower size, more intense color
and lack of a white eye to distinguish this species from the others. 

Plants received years ago under the name Ch. gigantea were distinct: the
flowers were very few per stem and bigger than those of any other sorts I
know. They also had the poorest color of the group – lots of white and less
intense blue. Also, when in bloom one of the flowers would generally open

In my garden these various plants were originally planted in separated
clumps, but over the years I suspect that there has been a lot of
hybridization. There are also hundreds if not thousands of plants growing in
the lawns here; they don’t make much of a show however because they are
generally well scattered.  These plants in the lawn came under the name Ch,
luciliae years ago, just as the name Ch. forbesii was beginning to appear in
the popular literature and some catalogs. 

One way which I am using to try to get a sense of what’s what is to
“retro-fit” the names. Here ‘s what I mean. If it’s true that the cultivar
‘Pink Giant’ is a form of Ch. forbesii (or Scilla forbesii), then I’m
assuming that the ones in the garden which most closely resemble it are the
same species. 

‘Pink Giant’ by the way is an odd color as I have it here. When the flowers
first began to open, they reminded me very much of Lycoris sprengeri: a sort
of purplish pink with bright blue patches. Now that the flowers have been
open for a few days, they remind me of certain garden hyacinths (‘Amethyst’
and ‘Pink Pearl’ come to mind). It’s an interesting color, but it’s not what
I think of as pink. 

The pink form of Scilla bifolia is also blooming now. In bud and in cool
weather, this is definitely a soft pink. But it quickly matures to white
with only the vaguest hint of pink. It’s a pretty little plant. 

And now I remember something I’ve mentioned in the past but it fits into
this discussion. The first time I received bulbs under the name Chionodoxa
sardensis over forty years ago, they turned out to be Scilla bifolia when
they bloomed. I held that against them for a few years, but I eventually
came to realize that they are a fine little bulb in their own right. They
not only naturalize here but they cross with the glories of the snow. The
color of Scilla bifolia is a good dark blue, but it lacks the intensity and
sparkle of Scilla sardensis. 

Also in the wings and ready to come on stage: one received as Chionodoxa
‘Blue Giant’. I have no idea what this is yet. 

By the way, I really like the image Roger posted of little blue things. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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