Gorgeous or ghastly grape hyacinths?


Having once, long ago, spent three years trying to make a reasonably good classification of Muscari species (some being the grape hyacinths of the garden), and spending mind-numbing hours examining their chromosomes, I thought I would hate them for the rest of my time on the planet.  But…
Well, they aren’t all mid-blue (mostly Muscari armeniacum or M. botryoides) or deep blue (bits of the hugely variable M. neglectum), or even mostly black.  One is banana yellow, another is silvery green, and quite a lot are shades of brown, with a tuft of violets sterile flowers at the top of the spike – almost fetching.
It was the yellow one I was first reconciled with.  It has a gorgeous banana/vanilla/lilac perfume, does well in pots, and has amusingly large seed pods.  Perhaps still called Muscari macrocarpum (these things change fast), have a hunt for it.  Bury the bulbs deep in a very deep pot; slugs can eat out the growing point of the bulb.  Once established, the bulbs have fleshy persistent roots, so just let the pots dry out.
Then there was the irrestistable (even to me) iceberg blue Muscari (blast, it’s lost its label, but is probably a bit of M. aucheri, and I think called ‘Peppermint’).  I see it’s seeded itself into the stonework of the empty window in ‘the ruin’ where it’s pot once stood.
But what enchants me at the moment, even if only at a specific time of day, is the mostly sterile Muscari ‘Blue Spike’, where the flowers barely exist, and blue feathery filaments replace them.  OK, for most of the day, the blue is unexceptional.  But here, in their whopping pot, they catch early evening sunshine, and their blue turns almost the same colour as the distant hills.
Their leaves begin to appear in late autumn, and look untidy-ish during the winter.  The old flower stalks get a bit of a mess too once the blue has faded.  However, here, they get swamped by the gorgeous smoky yallery-greenery foliage of Hosta ‘Wide Brim’.  And, with a bit of luck, that will be augmented by a skein or two of the butter yellow rose ‘Greenfinch’.


About david stuart

garden writer and journalist, and occasionally a designer, with a garden in the Scottish borders, and his pal's gardens in Edinburgh, London, and Lincolnshire. They keep both of us very, very busy. Books I've written listed on my website, and dozens of articles and garden and plant pictures. Currently working on several new projects. One of these was to return to painting - see the blog - and which is proving exciting! www.david-stuart.co.uk or, more fun, have a look at www.pinterest.com/davidcstuart
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