Friday, April 11, 2014

Scilla season

Late March and early April is the season for scilla, a pretty wildflower import that is hardy enough to survive freezing nights and conservative enough not to make a weed of itself.

Scilla siberica is a native of the woodlands of Eurasia. A century or so ago, planting its tiny bulbs was all the rage and today, many old homesteads have sections of lawn that, in early April, turn blue with thousands of small flowers that have spread from those old plantings. If the weather remains cool, the blossoms can last for weeks, providing not only beauty for the eye but nourishment for bees.

Scilla, also known by the rather unattractive name of squill, used to be more common, but some modern owners of antique houses spread weed killers on their lawns, wiping out the old colonies.

They did to scilla what scilla might do to them if they ate it. The word is from the Latin, “to harm,” reflecting the fact that most species are somewhat poisonous – which is actually a boon to gardeners.

It explains why, when so many other flowers are gobbled by the hungry deer, scilla blooms brightly and plentifully – as long as lawns remain poison-free.

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