Florid as a rock
Fancy a colourful early bloomer? David Overend recommends the little gem that is Scilla siberica.
Here’s a little plant to bring a bit of colour to beds and borders (and containers, of course) at this time of year – Scilla siberica, an early-blooming perennial that may just reach a height of eight inches.
It’s also perfect for a small rock where it can revel in the ideal conditions of a welldrained, fertile, sandy soil and enjoy a spot where it can make the most of any sun that’s going.
Plant the bulbs in the autumn and divide any big clumps after the blooms have faded and the foliage has died down (early summer should be fine).
Scilla siberica “Spring Beauty” is one of the most popular members of this family of delightful little gems. It’s a perennial bulb with narrow basal leaves and erect stems bearing racemes of star-shaped, flat or bell-shaped, blue flowers.
It knows its place – tucked down low to the ground where it can get protection from cold spring winds. Don’t expect it to grow higher than 15cm, so to show it at its best, give it a bit of breathing space from plants round about it.
For gardeners who aren’t over-keen on the colour blue, preferring, instead, to stick to the white that is so common in early spring, there is Scilla siberica “Alba”, which looks best when planted in drifts, lighting up a shady woodland corner or decorating the ground beneath deciduous shrubs where it can show off before new foliage cuts out the light and overshadows it.
These brilliant little white flowers – which are so very easy to grow – have tough stems topped with up to five nodding, bellshaped flowers in March and April and which are accompanied by slender, strapshaped, glossy, mid-green leaves.
Siberian squill are ideal for naturalising. If you aim for a natural-looking display, throw handfuls of bulbs over the ground, planting them where they fall. Alternatively, plant them 10cm deep in late summer or early autumn in any moderately fertile, humus-rich, welldrained soil.
For the best of both worlds, plant a few “Alba” in among drifts of “Spring Beauty”. And add a few more of S bifolia, a paler blue, which is also a very good naturaliser.
Scilla siberica are relatively cheap to buy, so there’s no need to skimp on planting – 50 bulbs should set you back less than a tenner.