Saturday, 1 May 2010
Fritillaria pyrenaica is one of the easiest and most rewarding fritillaries for the open garden, quickly bulking up to form substantial clumps, or self-sowing itself where conditons are amenable. It is somewhat variable, as these pictures show, but is most usually dark brown with a subdued gold 'lining', just visible as the tips of the segments curve outwards. A soft yellow form ('Old Gold') exists, but I've never grown it - this is one to look out for in seed exchanges. Some clones consistently produce two flowers from vigorous bulbs, while others only ever have solitary bells. As with most frits, they have a rather unpleasant odour - 'spunky' is how one friend describes it.
It is a native of Pyrenean meadows and is happy to grow in grass here too, flowering among the cowslips as F. meleagris fades. The bottom picture shows self-sown plants in my parents' lawn, but also the evidence of one of its worst pests, the Red Lily Beetle, which is responsible for the nibbled foliage. Regular inspection and squashing is probably the best method of control on the small scale.