In spite of the north-east winds and constant frosts of late March scillas and chionodoxas are opening every day, some in the places where I want them to be and where I planted them and a good many in spots they have chosen for themselves. The first of all is the pale blue, very dwarf Scilla tubergeniana. The chionodoxas, with their white eyes, flower next, then the ordinary scillas. I know there are many more interesting scillas that one ought to grow, but I get great enjoyment from the common squill, surely one of the bluest flowers we have and so kind in seeding itself about that I think it is the most satisfactory of them all. The chionoscillas, which are paler and bigger, are lovely too. They are a cross between chionodoxa and scilla.

There are several paler scillas that flower later. S. messinaica is daintier and paler than the common squill and has great ideas about colonisation. In Mr. Hadden’s garden at Porlock it is turning large areas of the undergrowth into sheets of blue in April, and looks lovely with late winter cyclamen. S. bifolia is rather darker in colour and flowers in March and seeds itself well. S. azureus is not very different in shade but more akin to the bluebell.

I have one little clump of white scillas, the albino form of the common squill. I must have bought more originally, but only one little planting has survived. It comes up every year but doesn’t appear to seed itself, which is a pity because there are not many white flowers in March. In a good year my fat white crocuses, Snowdrift, are lovely, but we sometimes get late frosts which ruin their beauty.

For years I have grown the summer snowflake, Leucolum aestivam, which was given to me as a Bermuda snowdrop. I don’t know why it is called “summer”, because although it comes after L. vernum it is still spring when it flowers. It goes very pleasantly with small daffodils and is a graceful plant to grow among shrubs. I had a clump in rather a prominent place near the house. This was a good idea in early spring when that graceful clump of green was very welcome, not so good when a late frost bent the stems and ruined the outline, and not at all good in early summer when it was untidy, turning yellow but not decayed enough to be removed. Now I have transferred the ordinary L. aestivum to the front garden and have clumps between the hydrangeas and behind the “Lent Rose” hellebores. Here I hope it will escape damage from late frost and the other plants in the small beds will screen somewhat the last ugly days of its yearly span.

The superior form of this snowflake, L. aestivum Gravetye Giant, I have planted between stones in the ditch with other tall and graceful plants. It is here that I put the variegated and the double Solomon’s Seal and double camassias, the bronze-leaved montbretia, solfaterra and libertias. The plants that hang their heads on arching stalks get the highest places so that one gets the full beauty of the plant as a whole. The flowers of the snowflake are small for the long stems and thicket of leaves, so they look best with a leafy background.

But if March has a flower all its own I think it is the daffodil. We have daffodils in February, and there will be many still in April, but for the greatest display March is the month.

When we plant daffodils I think we should observe how nature does the job. Wild daffodils grow in grass and usually in clumps so that one can enjoy the outline of the flowers against a background of leaves. Many daffodils grown together need the backing of green if they are not to look garish as they do when spaced in serried rows in bare earth. The most ordinary types grown In their individual clumps with grass as a background are far lovelier than the rarest bulbs grown in a flower bed with nursery neatness. We are all grateful to the people who grow them like this under their apple trees, in their grass banks, at the sides of their drives or even in the grass outside their houses.

The first daffodil to flower for me is the little Tenby daffodil, Pseudo-narcissus obvallaris, only 8″ high, but a perfect miniature of a trumpet daffodil. Coming so early one is not critical of its yellowness. It is rather a deep color and later in the season I feel it is a little garish. By then the white P.-n. moschatus is in bloom and the poor little Tenby daffodil doesn’t stand up to the comparison.

In the same way we think the bold King Alfred a fine fellow until the white Beersheba and Mount Hood start to bloom. White daffodils can be grown in a flower bed, but the yellow ones definitely need to be toned down by grass. Thalia, which has two pale heads on one stalk, is lovely nodding under the shade of a tree and so is W. P. Milner, in palest sulphur.

One reason, I think, why we like jonquils is that the flowers are small and delicate and they have as background many dark, narrow leaves. In Captain Berkeley’s garden at Spetchley, near Worcester, there is a long narrow bed planted to the brim with jonquils, filling the air with fragrance and the eye with grace.

The really tiny daffodils, N. gdamineus, bulbocodism and other miniatures, need a really safe place where they can grow and hold their own. I have found a good place to plant them is in the peat garden among heathers, where they can be left in safety to come up year after year with a good background of foliage.

 

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