Squizz at the squills

You probably wonder when walking in a park in the spring time which are these blue flowers covering the lawn?

I remember the first time I walked through the King’s Garden (Kongens Have) in Copenhagen it was at Easter and I was surprised and dazzled by this unbelievably blue lawn. How it was possible to have this huge area completely blue?? By watching closer it was obvious than these flowers came from a bulb. Today it’s easy to say “Yes of course it’s a glory of the snow.”

I wrote a blog post on the first spring flowers in which I mentioned the squill. It was about the misczenko squill (Scilla mischtschenkoana) which is an early squill.

The name Scilla is from a Greek name which refers to another plant. The Greek sea Squill, with the botanical name Drimia maritima.The sea squill has given its name to the Scilla genus.

The Species which cover our lawn are depending the expert either Scilla forbesii or Chionodoxa forbesii. The tepals of the glory of the snow are joined at their bases and form a tube rather than being free and the stamens have flattened stalks contrary to the other Scilla. Some experts consider that these two differences are not enough to create two distinct genus. Chionodoxa is from Greek and means chion snow and doxa means glory. The species name Forbesii refers to James Forbes an English botanist.

The white flowers above are Miczenko Squills. We can see the stamen and the filament which bear the pollen are not flattened contrary to the blue flowers.

If you choose to say Scilla or Chionodoxa forbesii in all the case they are called Glory of the snow in English. The original flower of the Glory of the Snow is blue, there are some cultivars which are taller with more flowers (“Blue Giant) or pink and taller (“Pink Giant”) others are violet (“Violet Beauty”) or White (“Alba”). But all of the cultivars have a white heart.

The Squill bifolia is a small squill and more delicate than the glory of the snow. It’s 5 to 15cm and usually have Two-Leaves so the species name is Bi-Folia. It’s called Alpine Squill. They have up to 8 small stars flowers.

There are 3 cultivars a pink “Rosea” on the picture above. A blue cultivar and a white “Alba”.

The Alpine Squill is an early spring flowering as the Squill Miczenko (Scilla mischtschenkoana). This third squill is named to honor a Russian botanist Pavlov Mischtschenko.

The star shaped flowers can be more than two cm large. they are white with a light blue stripe on the back of the petals.

The last squill I will talk about here arrives a bit later than the others. I am more used to find it at the base of a deciduous shrub areas as it tolerates it better than the others and can spread in a more shadowy areas. It’s the Siberian Squill also called the Wood Squill, Scilla siberica.

Its deep blue flowers, bell like, makes it easy to recognize because they are drooping from redish stems. there are a few cultivars which are light blue or darker blue but they are not common in the gardens and parks.

The Squills are originally from Southern Europe, Africa and Middle East. They are easy plants and don’t need maintenance, they are mainly pest and disease free. They spread easily by seedlings and can rapidly have an intense blue effect in the spring. Some consider them invasive.

These four species are the most common. There is obviously a lot of species and cultivars but not easy to find unless you are a collector.

Words and Photographs : Maxime Carton

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