Nature can, at times, benevolently redirect our gardening plans and it is as well to go with it rather than fight against it – going with the flow, so to speak.
Some years back we had the idea of having a patch of grass in the garden where we would plant bulbs – a bulb lawn, as we fancifully called it. We began with crocus, the cheaper selections bought as dry bulbs, and gradually added those crocuses which we used for spring display in pots with daffodils and tulips. When the display was over we planted the crocus in this grass patch. We added a pinch of the Snake’s Head Fritillary around the same time and some common snowdrops and when given access to an old abandoned garden, planted several thousand snowdrops and imagined snowdrops would be our feature bulb.
That old garden also supplied two old daffodil varieties which have traditionally been planted in grass – ‘Van Sion’ and ‘Butter and Eggs’ while a few stray muscari and scilla gave some spots of blue and a sprinkle of orchids gave late season interest. We allow the grass to grow until mid-August when all the bulbs have died down and use the saved hay as bedding for our hens and ducks.
The snowdrops have done well, which was what we had hoped for, but that original pinch of fritillaries soon began so self-seed and has increased beyond our expectations. It seems the conditions in the garden suits them very well; our wet conditions echoing their natural growing locations of riverside flood meadows. In the last few years we have begun collecting the seed so as to spread it about a little more and this has been a success with flowers and seedlings appearing further away from the original planting. We may have had hopes and visions of drifts of snowdrops – and they will be there – but, I think, the fritillaries will be the more successful as that is what nature has dictated and we will be happy with that.
It is wonderful to see the increase in numbers in the fritillaries but also very interesting to see the variations in depth of colour which occurs with crosses between the darker and the white forms.