The pungent odor of the spring-flowering bulb fritillaria keeps pests away.
Courtesy of Donna Williamson
We’ve been fortunate this year to get only a smattering of snow. My friends up North are getting pounded, and I remember the feeling.
About an inch fell here earlier in the week, but the wind was fierce and whipped the inch into little mini-drifts. Makes me think of spring. And that causes fritillarias to come to mind.
Fritillarias are interesting bulbs and anyone who has problems with deer, voles, or other ravenous creatures stripping the garden of joy can look at this family of plants.
They emit an odor that is pungent -- especially when you leave the bulbs in your car after picking them up from the nursery in September and you stop for a gallon of milk and a few other things at the grocery. Opening the car door will expose your nose to the full force of fritillaria’s pest defense. Pure skunk.
There are several tiny and exquisite fritillaries -- the snake's head (Fritillaria meleagris) is lovely and has a tiny, checkered, downward-facing bell that welcomes damp soil. It’s perfect for a bottomland, or near a creek or pond.
Fritillaria persica has a tall, dark, candelabra of downward-facing bells. It is statuesque and a contrast to the pinks and yellows of spring: The darks make the brights brighter, etc.
The crown imperial, Fritillaria imperialis, is a showstopper. About three feet tall and coming a little later in spring, this beauty has three color choices – yellow, orange, and red. This one prefers a drier soil when dormant – in summer and winter - and if given a sunny location and good drainage will last for years.