Growing up in the north, at this time of the year winter was long in the tooth… we were all tired of it. We desperately looked forward to any warm days when the snow would melt and maybe a patch of green would show through the dirty snow. My mother had planted some tiny bulbs under an Alder bush which would grow into a tree. the bulbs would be the absolutely first things to bloom often before the ice and snow had left the ground. No wonder their common name is Glory in the Snow (Chiodoxa forbesii). Their incredibly intense blue blossoms where always cherished.
Chiondoxa in Greek means literally Glory in the Snow; ‘Chion’ being snow and ‘doxa’ being glory. There has been some confusion with the specific species name which was formerly lucillae and this is still commonly seen in trade as well as in publications. Lucillae was the name given by Edward Boissier for his wife (Lucile (1822-1849) who died accompanying him on his travels.
The name we now use is Chiondoxa forbesii. Forbesii commemorates James Forbes(1773-1861), the head gardener and horticulturalist of Woburn Abbey which was owned by the passionate plant collector the Duke of Bedford. Forbes wrote Hortus Woburnensis which was a listing of all the 6000 + species and varieties of ornamental plants which were held in the collection in his time.
Whatever the name on the bulbs is you can be sure they originated in the same small area in western Turkey high in the Tmolus Mountains near Izmir. In the area where they grow Glory In The Snow often bloom before the snows have completely melted, therefore the common name. There Chiondoxa species grow on gritty, stony slopes in full sun or under deciduous trees and shrubs.
Choindoxa forbesii has been with us for some time and the bright blue flowers are always a favorite in the garden and lawn. because they are so low growing, early blooming and aggressive seeders they make good bulbs to include in lawns for early color. I see this in many places here where it is common the see the same with Crocus, Galanthus and Daffodils. We have an ideal climate with winter wet and droughts during the summer when these types of bulbs are resting.
Growing these dainty darlings is easy. Glory In The Snow likes well-drained soil with full sun especially when they are growing in the late winter and early spring. When they are growing is the time they most need some moisture, later when they are dormant they prefer to be quite dry. These plants are best grown under deciduous shrubs and trees especially in areas of strong sun. I like them under many of the early blooming shrubs and in areas which are brightened up by the bright colors. One must be careful if planting them that they do not over take other small plants growing near by. Remove spent flowers and sometimes dig up excess bulbs will take care of the problem of their over population.
Glory In The Snow are hardy to zone 4 or -29c (-20f). At the colder extremes you should give them some extra mulch for winter protection. They grow at the most 15cm (6in.) above the ground. If you choose to naturalize them in your lawn you should postpone you first mowing until they have finished their growing cycle and are in decline, this will assure you a good colorful show of flowers the following year. If you like white forms be on the lookout for Chiondoxa forbesii var alba, a glistening member which would be attractive to see.
Glory in the Snow links:
Paghat’s page on the ‘Pink Giant’ http://www.paghat.com/chionodoxapink.html
Wiki’s page on Choindoxa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chionodoxa_luciliae
Until we meet again soon…