Puschkinia scilloides libanotica (striped squills) are one of the earliest bulbs to appear in the spring, and make a lovely show with their pretty blooms. There are masses of florets facing outwards from the stem. I’ve been very impressed with how well these showy bulbs have flourished in the shade and handled the cold.
I have one group of striped squills close to the north side of my house, partly under a bay window, squeezed between some small yews, and large spruce and pine. These evergreens create year round shade for the Puschkinia, unlike the bulbs in the backyard under deciduous trees. The little blue bulbs might get a half hour of sun at the most, but are still growing and blooming well. I’m very impressed by how these spring bulbs have performed with such a low light exposure, and that the blooms have not shrunk after three years. In the shadows, the pale blue colour is very conspicuous. Their lovely flowers show up well against the dark green of the yew.
The Puschkinia bulbs have coped with the flurries we’ve had over the past week just fine. They continue to shine, blooming through the below freezing temperatures, and shrugging off the white flakes. The striped squills are handling the May weather better than me. The flowers might look delicate, but they are definitely not wimps. Planting some early, hardy bulbs greatly lengthens the number of weeks that the garden is in bloom, when the growing season is so short.
Here is a closeup of one flower stalk, showing the six petals of each floret. Each petal is white, with a blue stripe down the middle, visible on the front and back of the petals. This gives an overall light blue colour when seen from a distance. Since they face outwards all around the stem, they look good when viewed from any direction, even from above. In my garden, the Puschkinia bulbs are about 25 cm (10 in) tall, and the blooms about 10 cm (4 in) high. The flowers last for about three weeks.
This closeup of the buds shows the tightly folded petals with blue stripes. You can see how they are positioned in all directions around the central stalk.
I’ve seen these sold as Puschkinia libanotica too. I also grow some Puschkinia scilloides ‘Alba’, which are the white version. If you look very closely at the Alba blooms though, you can see a very faint blue line in the centre of each petal. They are lovely in their own way, but the regular blue striped bulbs are more endearing. This post from last year shows photos of both types of Puschkinia growing in my garden.
Here is part of the Puschkinia group in front of a yew. You can see how the pine tree helps mulch this garden bed, by dropping needles on top of the soil. I sometimes scuff my shoe across the sidewalk as I walk by, pushing more fallen pine needles into the bed. They make a great natural and free mulch.
I love the little spring bulbs, which bloom one after another in my garden. The Puschkinia (striped squills) bloom a little after the Galanthus (snowdrop) bulbs start to flower. They bloom just before the Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) and Scilla (squills), to which they are related. Then come the Muscari (grape hyacinths) and Crocus. The parade of little bulbs starts early in the garden, extending the bloom cycle. Here is a post showing the pretty blue Chionodoxa and Scilla bulbs flowering last year.
Puschkinia scilloides var libanotica really make a splash in the early spring garden. They are very hardy in a zone 3 garden, and they don’t mind the shade. The bulb’s early blooming time is a real benefit to a short growing season. These easy going spring bulbs are one of my favourites. Here is another article about these pretty striped squill bulbs.