Scilla and Chionodoxa Bulbs in Part Shade

Chionodoxa and Scilla siberica collageScilla (squills) and Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) are two of my favourite spring flowering bulbs. Since they bloom right after the crocus, they keep the bulb show going so I don’t have a bare time in the garden before most plants start to flower. Both of them do well in part shade, growing under the trees. These bulbs are very cold hardy, and have no problem with a zone 3 winter. The white Chionodoxa luciliae ‘Alba’ and blue Scilla siberica were in this garden section before, but I added the purplish blue Chionodoxa fobesii last fall.

Chionodoxa forbesii with purple blue flowers
Chionodoxa forbesii with purple blue flowers

I have a number of the Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) in other parts of the garden, but I added them to this area to combine with the other small spring bulbs. They have beautiful purple blue flowers with five petals that face upwards to make a showy display. The inner base of each flower lightens to almost white, while there is a line of deeply saturated colour down the centre of each petal. The petal tips curl back slightly.

Chionodoxa forbesii and 'Alba'
Chionodoxa forbesii and ‘Alba’

I especially like the way the white Chionodoxa mix with the more colourful Chionodoxa to highlight the pretty colour. They are like twinkling lights against the remains of the fall leaves.

Chionodoxa 'Alba' white flower bulbs
Chionodoxa ‘Alba’ white flower bulbs

Chionodoxa luciliae ‘Alba’ are an all white version of glory of the snow. The light colour shows up extra well in the shadowy areas. This group of ‘Alba’ are growing on the other side of the willow next to some Puschkinia (striped squills) bulbs and pair well with the blue and white striped flowers.

Chionodoxa 'Alba' white flowers
Chionodoxa ‘Alba’ white flowers

These ‘Alba’ are in front of a Dryopteris fern that is mostly evergreen. You can see one of the fronds from last year at the top of the photo. Chionodoxa work well informally under the deciduous trees, mixed with ferns and tree detritus. As the ferns grow, the green strap-like foliage of the Chionodoxa will be covered up, so it won’t be so noticeable as it dies back for the summer.

spring bulbs Chionodoxa and Scilla siberica growing through fall leaves
spring bulbs Chionodoxa and Scilla siberica growing through fall leaves

Chionodoxa mix beautifully with the related Scilla that at the top of the picture. The colourful Chionodoxa used to be my favourite, but now I appreciate having some white ones mixed with them. You can see how the white ones add a little sparkle to brighten up the display. They catch your eye more and set off the pretty colour of the purplish blue Chionodoxa.

blue Scilla siberica with Chionodoxa forbesii and 'Alba' in front
blue Scilla siberica with Chionodoxa forbesii and ‘Alba’ in front

The Scilla siberica ‘Spring Beauty’ (squills) at the top of this picture have a true blue colour. The Scilla flowers have a darker line running down the middle of each petal. The squill flowers face downwards, and because of this they are less noticeable than the Chionodoxa, but they make up for that with their wonderful colour.

Chionodoxa and Scilla siberica flowers
Chionodoxa and Scilla siberica flowers

This photo shows the difference in flower habits, with the Chionodoxa blooms at the front pointing upwards, and the Scilla at the back facing downwards.

Chionodoxa in purple and white
Chionodoxa in purple and white

Here are the glory of the snow bulbs mixing it up in the leaves under the trees. On their own the Chionodoxa seem blue, but planted next to the real blue squills they appear purple.

glory of the snow and squill flowers
glory of the snow and squill flowers

This closeup of the two colours of starry Chionodoxa flowers twinkling together.

spring bulbs in dappled light under tree
spring bulbs in dappled light under tree

These bulbs are planted under a willow tree, so the plants get a medium amount of light in spring before the tree fully leafs out. Even so, you can see that the branches cast dappled light on the bulbs, which handle the part shade just fine.

blue white and purple spring bulbs
blue white and purple spring bulbs

I’m glad I mixed the Chionodoxa colours next to each other to enliven the display. Along with the blue Scilla siberica, they make a nice trio.



Combinations of Crocus Flowers in the Garden

large Dutch crocus in purple
large Dutch crocus in purple

I added some new crocus to the garden last fall, adjacent to some established ones, so that made a nice sweep of colour from early May. After an extended winter, all of the bulbs came out at once, and the garden was full of beautiful crocus flower combinations.

Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus' and Crocus sieberi 'Tricolor' behind
Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ and Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ behind

Here are two shorter crocus. In front is Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ and behind is Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’. ‘Prins Claus’ is mostly white with some purple on the outside of its petals, which matches to the more saturated purple ‘Tricolor’. ‘Tricolor is one of my new favourites, with its purple, gold and white zones of colour.

Crocus vernus 'Striped Beauty' and Crocus vernus 'Vanguard'
Crocus vernus ‘Striped Beauty’ and Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’

Crocus vernus ‘Striped Beauty’ in the front and Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ behind make a pretty purple and white crocus combination. ‘Striped Beauty’ has a white background on the petals with dark purple striped running through them, while ‘Vanguard’ alternates between mauve and silver gray petals. I’m very pleased with the look of these two together. I have other areas where this striped crocus is combined with a dark purple crocus, but I would repeat this combination again.

purple and white crocus
purple and white crocus

A closeup of ‘Striped Beauty’ and ‘Vanguard’ shows how the colours are similar, with varying patterns.

Crocus 'Vanguard' 'Silver Coral' Yellow Mammoth' 'Striped 'Beauty'
Crocus ‘Vanguard’ ‘Silver Coral’ Yellow Mammoth’ ‘Striped ‘Beauty’

Here’s a section of purple crocus around the golden yellow Crocus x luteus ‘Yellow Mammoth’. In the front are ‘Vanguard’, Striped Beauty’ is behind, and ‘Silver Coral’ is the mostly white crocus in the middle.

Crocus 'Yellow Mammoth' and Crocus vernus 'Pickwick'
Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’ and Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’

Crocus can be very eye catching in a contrasting colour scheme of gold and purple. ‘Yellow Mammoth’ is shining in front, and another striped purple crocus, Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ is in back.

large crocus in garden
large crocus in garden

‘Yellow Mammoth’ makes a strong contrast to the solid purple Crocus vernus ‘Remembrance’ at the back of this picture.

yellow Crocus chrysanthus 'Fuscotinctus' surrounded by other crocus
yellow Crocus chrysanthus ‘Fuscotinctus’ surrounded by other crocus

This combination has more yellow in it, with the smaller Crocus chrysanthus ‘Fuscotinctus’ in the middle. When the petals on ‘Fuscotinctus’ are closed, they show maroon stripes on the outside, but the stripes are not showing up well in the picture above. They are usually earlier flowering than the larger crocus, with only a bit of overlap in bloom time in the garden.

Crocus vernus 'Vanguard' 'Striped Beauty' 'Remembrance'
Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’ ‘Striped Beauty’ ‘Remembrance’

This combination of three Crocus vernus goes from light crocus flowers in the front to dark purple at the back.

crocus mixed in garden
crocus mixed in garden

The picture above was taken before my garden cleanup, so you can see how amiable crocus bulbs are about coming up thorough anything in the garden, including layers of fall leaves. Those long slender leaves pierce holes in the garden debris, and the flower buds poke their petals through, or the flowers just push the layers up like rakish hats, and then toss them to the side.

Crocus vernus .Vanguard' and other light purple crocus
Crocus vernus Vanguard’ and other light purple crocus

Here the sunlight is streaming through the flower petals, showing a delicate flower look, belying the actual hardy nature of crocus. Usually if it snows after the flowers have opened, they just close up and wait for warmer weather to open them again.

purple Crocus vernus 'Pickwick' and 'Yellow Mammoth'
purple Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ and ‘Yellow Mammoth’

The picture above shows how vibrant ‘Pickwick’ with ‘Yellow Mammoth’ flowers look together, with their purple and yellow combination. Crocus leaves look good, too, with their distinctive silver racing stripe down the middle of each blade.

mixed Crocus vernus in garden
mixed Crocus vernus in garden

This photo is  looking across part of the garden with lots of purple crocus flowers and some gold highlights.

crocus in garden
crocus in garden

The Crocus vernus are at the front here, and in the back  of the photo are some of the smaller Crocus chrysanthus(snow crocus). The gaps are where some perennials are planted that will come up later. There is a peony, some Phlox, and a number of Campanula (bellflowers). On the far side of the photo, the crocus are planted in between some hardy Geranium ‘Roseanne’, more Campanula, and under a lilac.

mixed white yellow and purple crocus
mixed white yellow and purple crocus

Here are more of the later crocus enjoying the sun’s rays. It’s a good thing that the crocus flower early before the tree leaves fill in and increase the shade in this garden bed.

pretty crocus in garden
pretty crocus in garden

In the front right corner of this picture are some Crocus tommasinianus that were fading. They came out very early, but didn’t last long. They were nice enough, but I wouldn’t necessarily plant them again.

pretty crocus
pretty crocus

The crocus really brighten up the faded fall leaves and maple keys that cover the garden bed after the snow melts.

Crocus vernus 'Silver Coral 'and other crocus
Crocus vernus ‘Silver Coral ‘and other crocus

I love the way that crocus enliven the garden so quickly as the last of the snow melts. Starting with the Crocus chrysanthus, and C. tommasinianus, through the C. vernus to the C. sieberi and C. x luteus, they provide so much colour in the early spring garden. You can see some more purple crocus in this follow up article.


Bees Love the Early Crocus

There were lots of visitors to the crocus in May. We had an extra long winter in Edmonton, so the bees seemed to be enticed to the first crocus. Just as the bright petals caught my eye and invited me out to view the crocus, they seem to have caught the bee’s attention, too. I’m better at flower identification than classifying bees, so I’m not sure of the insect ID, but you can see there is quite a variety. The photos are from earlier in May.

bee on Crocus vernus 'Vanguard'
bee on Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’

Here is a bumblebee visiting Crocus vernus ‘Vanguard’. It seems to have visited a few flowers already, and has accumulated a good dusting of pollen.

bee on Crocus vernus 'Pickwick'
bee on Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’

Here is a back end shot of of a bee deep in a Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ purple striped flower. You can see the pollen scattered around the petals and hind quarters. In their usual position, with their head down and only the rear end and a few fuzzy legs visible clinging to the style, it is hard to tell exactly who is who.

bee in Crocus chrysanthus 'Prins Claus'
bee in Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’

This  visitor is going for the nectar at the base of a Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’ and distributing the pollen around the flower as well as its body. There’s gold dust everywhere.

bee on Crocus 'Yellow Mammoth'
bee on Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’

Another fuzzy bee. This time on the bright Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’. It seems to be getting a good source of pollen and nectar.

fuzzy bee on Crocus 'Yellow Mammoth' flower
fuzzy bee on Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’ flower

A bumble bee at another golden coloured Crocus ‘Yellow Mammoth’. Just as I was thinking that I need to order a bee identification book, Dave of The Home Bug Garden mentions a new bumblebee identification book coming out soon which I will have to get.

The pollinators seem to appreciate the early crocus as much as I do. These were the first flowers that I saw around, so those searching for nectar were congregating on the many crocus around the yard. Now there are  plenty of flowers in bloom around the city, but when blossoms were more scarce, the crocus flowers were a welcome source of nectar for them.