Collecting some brightly coloured, spring bulb catalogues from the mail box this morning, I experienced a pang of delinquency. How many tree branches had been sacrificed I wondered, simply for me to chill on the verandah with a coffee while enjoying the offerings of our Aussie growers?
I realised that even a few twigs were indefensible, and vowed to shop online henceforth. And if you don’t have internet access, make the most of the beautiful printed catalogues, because they may not be around for much longer.
Admiring some unusually large and glamorous blue scillas (S. peruviana) in a friend’s garden last November, I was determined to try them out – coming from Mediterranean regions they like a dry summer.
The large flowers open from the outside, giving a two tone effect.
The large flowers open from the outside, giving a two tone effect with a ring of small starry florets surrounding a cluster of darker buds, and bloom with the first roses at the onset of summer.
David Glenn’s Lambley Nursery (www.lambley.com.au/) offers several, including ‘Midnight Blue’ which looks more purple than blue but maybe that’s the illustration, also ‘Alba’ with greenish buds opening pure white, and blue-white ‘Hughii’ with mauve buds.
David has another couple of scillas, including a Spanish bluebell (S. hispanica ‘Excelsior’), an ideal substitute for the English bluebell (Scilla non-scripta), which can’t take our hot dry climate. Spanish bluebell is bigger and brassier, up to 40 centimetres with large spikes of pure blue bells.
Blue happens to be my favourite colour, which is handy because it goes with everything, so I love bright blue Tritelia (formerly Brodiaea) ‘Queen Fabiola’ flowering a week or so after the scillas. Tritelias are described as not fully hardy but I’ve had no trouble keeping thickly mulched bulbs through frosts down to at least -5C. From Vogelvry Bulbs and Flowers (www.vogelvry.com.au/).
The eye catching blue of ‘Queen Fabiola’ is gorgeous among glaucous blue leaves, maybe a ground covering euphorbia (Euphorbia myrsinites or E. rigida) or a blue grass such as low growing blue fescue (Festuca glauca) or taller poa (P. labillardieri).
Vogelvry have an unusual, double grape hyacinth (Muscari cumosum ‘Plumosum’) with deep lilac fluffy plumes of flowers, quite unlike the common blue grape hyacinths that can become invasive in time.
Carpets of grape hyacinths are far removed from the large, heavily scented Hyacinth hybrids we all love to have on our kitchen table in July.
Get in early for the best choice of colours. Mostly available in shades of red, white and blue, Van Diemen Bulbs (www. vdqbulbs.com.au/) also offer cream ‘City of Haarlem’ that’s as yellow as clotted cream.
Van Diemen Bulbs offer a stunning range of Dutch iris too, one of the easiest bulbs for weeks of flowers in October.
I can’t wait to try several glowing, bronze purple varieties including Eye of the Tiger, Mystic Beauty and Red Ember.
Heads Up: From Vegetable Garden to Kitchen, talk by Aaron Bertelsen, kitchen gardener at the late Christopher Lloyd’s famous garden Great Dixter, Sussex, UK. February 16, 10am, at Annesley, Bowral. $80 includes lecture, cookbook and morning tea. www.trybooking.com/319578
Last chance: Take cuttings of winter flowering, evergreen Daphne odora.