AS daily temperatures continue to rise, the colour blue once again lifts me to an ecstatic high.
Any shade is welcome at ‘Villa Marie’: lavender blue and pale sky blue, ultra-marine or royal blue.
Many appear fleetingly (some indeed, almost daily) in those few square yards of the back garden which boast deep rich soil and gentle shade.
They sing out here with a clarity you just would not get in an open border.
There is a delicious glut of blue as I write.
Despite the cold during February (and currently) the show began with the tiniest trickle of Anemone blanda, followed almost immediately by Puskinia, then by way of Scilla and Muscari to Crocus and Pulmonaria.
In March the blue of Chionadoxa dazzled, and as April dawned the clarity and amount of blue became a virtual flood with the arrival of Erythroniums and Pulmonaria.
And even as the pale tulips fade, they will leave behind a foil of knee-deep forget-me-nots mixed through with tall, bearded iris strutting their stuff whilst looking down their noses at the shy Omphaloides and stubble leafed Brunnera Jack Frost which light up shady areas.
Have you noticed that many of these are spring bulbs?
Through bulbs, great gardeners have been born. They realise that the majority need little space and their routine maintenance fits around a busy life at work in the city or countryside. They experiment yearly with the different varieties rather than sticking to the same old daffodils, tulips, and crocus.
Increasingly they look to Glory of the Snow (botanically known and sold as Chionodoxa) for their reliability, compactness, ability to colonise, and early appearance. These are extremely hardy and do well in either full sun or lightly shaded areas, provided neither become too hot or too dry in summer.
Mulching their position with any kind of organic material (leaf-mould will be found very beneficial) will encourage them to increase and multiply if applied before they begin to emerge in spring.
If you provide the cool, moist conditions that they relish they’ll grow well and seed freely giving a valuable early spring display particularly under deciduous trees and around the sides of bushy evergreen shrubs.
The blooms of Chionodoxa have attractive flat, star-shaped intensely blue petals held in short racemes less than six inches high (which nod charmingly) when brought to perfection by the first weeks of bright spring light (see illustration).
Their foliage is modest by anyone’s standard; a pair of simple narrow leaves which die down ever so obligingly soon after flowering. The bluest form is called Chionodoxa sardensis which produces up to a dozen, rich, deep blue flowers in a raceme which faces the light horizontally.
The bulbs for chionodoxa will not be available until the autumn. Search for them online.