A frit by any other name

Have you noticed how many plant names have changed in the past few years? Schizostylis became hesperis, dicentra spectabilis is now lamprocapnos spectabilis (who makes up these names?!), and some of the asters are now symphiotrichum. Several years ago, Russian botanists decided fritillaria sewerzowii displayed enough differences from the rest of the family to be split off into its own genus, and renamed it korolkowia sewerzowii. But for now, it remains a fritillaria in the west.

Several years ago, while on a botanising holiday in Kazakhstan, we found fritillaria sewerzowii growing in loose scree at a height of around six thousand feet in the Tien Shan mountains.

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From a large bulb, it quickly makes a stem between ten and sixteen inches tall in March or early April, carrying grey-green leaves, and up to a dozen nodding flowers. These are usually brown or purple on the outside, with yellow or green inside, although we also saw plants with orange or yellow blooms. All the different colour forms appear to be in cultivation, and I have successfully grown two of them.

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Fritillaria sewerzowii - 2015

While hardy, this bulb is intolerant of excessive wet, especially during the winter months (when it would be covered by snow in its native habitat), or the occasional British summer that turns into a washout . It also needs a sharply drained soil and full sun. so is usually recommended for an alpine house or pot cultivation.

I decided to try another method. My bulbs are growing in a raised bed in a gritty soil, the type of mix that suits alpines. I cut up a plastic flower pot and positioned a piece over the bulb at an angle of forty-five degrees, just under the soil, which would keep rain away from the bulb but still allow the shoot to grow. It did grow, but so strongly that it pushed the plastic to the surface, but still gives protection to the bulb underground, a method that has worked for three years so far.

 

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