Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Puschkinia Perfume

I bless the good  fortune, ten years now in the past, that allowed me to find and  try a few bulbs of Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica, commonly known as Striped Squill.  I am always partial to the sky-blue Scilla sp. family and I am always on the lookout for species bulbs that will survive the wind and wayward Kansas Spring.  These minor bulbs (as Elizabeth Lawrence referred to them) are a match made in the heavens for my garden.

Puschkinia  are small bulbs of the hyacinth family that one website claims have been "gardened" since 1808, but I'm sure that must be the Western history of gardening with these Turkish natives.  Growing only 6 inches tall, a decent-sized clump at a distance looks primarily like a white ground-hugging blob, but up close, the beauty of these little guys is striking.  It took several years for this bulb to "grow" on me since I started with such a small clump,  but they have begun to spread on their own through the bed I planted them in, and they've now earned a permanent place in my garden.  VanBloem lists them as being hardy to USDA Zone 7-8, but they've survived and spread 10 years in my Zone 5 garden.  They also come in a completely white form, but these are harder to find and are probably undistinguished in terms of garden impact.  I've had enough lately of pure white mutant forms of otherwise spectacular flowers.

I didn't know until yesterday that they were also scented, but if you lay on the ground and bury your nose in the clump, they have a very sweet, but not overpowering scent.  I am personally put off by the strong odor of so-called Dutch Hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis) up close, and can't eat with a Dutch Hyacinth or Oriental Lily smelling up  the room,  but I appreciate the more delicate scents of these hyacinth-relations.  I suppose you could also cut these somewhat waxy flowers and raise them up to your nose rather than  flatten yourself down to their level to sample their aroma, but then, that would be cheating and would deprive you of experiencing another world, a little world, where these flowers are the gardening universe of their surroundings.

2 comments:

  1. The only scent I am receiving now in south Kansas is burnt bluestem. It got so bad here it looked like a dense fog. Nice knowledge about Squill.

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  2. Must plant puschkinia. Love small scented flowers. I seem to remember that the wee spring iris are also fragrant, though I haven't tested them this year, now that I have a small clump in my garden. I also love the image of you (or me) lying flat on the (cold, wet, snowy, muddy -- choose one or more) spring ground, in order to get the nose close enough to sniff. Luckily, there's no requirement or even expectation that gardeners be dignified in the course of our duties. And there's always a fresh flannel shirt to be changed into when the current one is caked with dirt.

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