Monday, 24 February 2014

How I fell in love with the snakeshead fritillary

I have always been a big fan of the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, especially loving his flower paintings.  I had in my collection of postcards a card of his painting of a small nodding flower with a chequerboard pattern of dark purple and white, in almost perfect squares. Back then I was still quite a novice gardener, and although the title must surely have been on the back of the card, I  believed that nature could not produce something so delicately and stunningly beautiful as this charming little nodding head on slender bright green stems and narrow leaves.  I thought that CRM had dreamt up such a flower and painted it, such was to my mind, the improbability of nature producing a square pattern to perfection.............  In the village we were lucky enough to have a garden centre, and I often went up there in my lunch hour for a change of scene and to gaze longingly at the plants and flowers, reading labels and generally learning. There, on the bench one day, was single pot of snakeshead fritillaries;  I remember how astounded I was that such a plant really did exist, and I bought it there and then, spending my lunch money on it.  It spent the afternoon on my desk, with one flower open and several to come, then was taken home and planted in a good spot in my tiny garden.  I then went on to do some research into fritillaries, falling in love with first the creamy white snakeshead - meleagris - then all the rest of them. It's a love affair that lasts to this day and there are several small stands established here in my garden.  Some will be moving with me, and I have been collecting up seeds of other varieties too  f. lusitanic,  f.messanensis and f.pudica so far.

If ever the word exquisite was invented for something, then this wee plant must surely be it.

I have a similar love for meconopsis, but that's a whole other story..................

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