Glory of the Snow – Chionodoxa

Glory of the Snow is its more popular name and very suitable it is too, but like so many of the small-flowering bulbs we know only at the most but one or two species and neglect the others which are even more beautiful and are just as inexpensive and easy to obtain. They will increase more rapidly than any other flowering bulb and will remain in bloom throughout March and April. Their native haunt is Greece and it is from the Greek chioni, meaning snow, and doxa, glory, that it takes its name. The Chionodoxa is a valuable little flower in that it appears unmindful of the often experienced cold winds and sleet showers of early spring. Unlike the crocus it refuses to close up its flowers as if protecting itself from the elements, it remains completely unworried though the vivid blue, pink and white blooms deceive with their delicate look. Planted in pots and allowed to bloom in a frame or cold house in March, they make a ,welcome addition to the spring display.

PLANTINGGlory of the Snow

Ideal plants for the rockery or for the front of a border or shrubbery where they will receive their fair share of sunshine, the chionodoxa species should be planted in September as freely as possible in clusters, planting the bulbs no more than 2 in. deep. The plant is not so tolerant of damp, shady conditions as the snowdrop or winter aconite, so reserve the shady corners for other flowers. The chionodoxa enjoys a soil containing plenty of leaf mould or peat but above all must be given some sharp sand or grit which it enjoys in its native haunts. As they quickly reproduce themselves both from offsets and self-sown seed, a light mulch of the ground during mid-winter will help the bulbs to retain vigour, depth of colour and at the same time will provide them with a protective covering which will encourage them to come into bloom when so much appreciated early in March. A mixture of well-rotted manure and peat or leaf mould will be ideal.

Indoor Culture

For pot culture, use a compost for the winter aconite, giving the bulbs no undue forcing in any way. Small pots or bowls would find a ready sale together with the crocus and snowdrops, muscari and iris reticulata, indeed such a collection could be brought along entirely in a cold-house or cold-frame at a time when neither are generally occupied with more profitable plants. With so few flowers available during January, February and March, here is an attraction for those who are now compelled to make their gardens profitable as well as beautiful.

But perhaps the loveliest way with the chionodoxas indoors is to plant half a dozen bulbs of all the species and varieties and colours together in a large seed pan. When taken indoors in the early new year they will come into bloom late in January, starting with the C. sardensis the various species come into bloom in turn right through the later winter and early spring months. Try covering the outside of the pan with a piece of old ‘black-out material and the effect will astonish you. Or, of course, the same bulbs may be planted in a large but shallow glass or painted pottery bowl. Remember to place some broken crocks along the bottom before filling with compost which will help with drainage and a good idea is to mix into the compost a small handful of crushed charcoal which will keep the soil sweet over a long period.

Of such distinctive colouring are the Chionodoxa species that I prefer to plant them in drifts, keeping them entirely to themselves. They are rarely troubled by either mice or birds – neither will spring winds harm them. They have-, in fact, no vices.

SPECIES

  • Chionodoxa gigantea (grandifiora). This species bears large flowers of the clearest sky-blue and is at its best throughout April. The colour is accentuated when planted with C. gigantea alba.
  • C. luciliae. Growing to a height of 4 in., this species bears vivid blue flowers which have an attractive white eye. The flowers are carried on dainty sprays and are freely produced. This is an excellent species for the rockery.
  • C. luciliae alba. Like Gigantea alba enhances the colouring of its blue relative. The Luciliae group flower at the end of March.
  • C. luciliae rosea. So rarely found in any garden but just as easy and inexpensive as any of the chionodoxa species and the rich shell pink colouring is amazingly lovely, especially when planted with the blue and white varieties. A new variety of great charm is Pink Giant which produces its spikes of rich shell pink flowers on 9 in. stems and is excellent for cutting. As yet the bulbs are expensive at 40s. A dozen, but it is a beauty.
  • C. sardensis. From Sardinia, and a most striking colour being similar to the blue of Gentian sino-ornata. The flowers are carried on loose sprays and are very freely produced. Comes into bloom early in March and is good for cold-frame culture.
  • C. tmoli. From the Levant and produces a larger and rather more striking flower than gigantea though is not quite so prolific. Blooms early in April.

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