Saturday, 29 March 2014

Dog's Tooth Violets

Let's make one thing clear, they're not violets at all - in fact they're not even distantly related but are members of the Lily Family. Considering how beautiful they are I'm surprised that they aren't in every garden. I grow three species.

The most eye-catching of the genus is lovely Erythronium 'Pagoda'. It is hard to fault this plant although, as a keen entomologist, I have one small complaint: the plant is a hybrid (parentage not known for certain but it may be E. tuolumnense x E. californicum) and, as is often the case, the flowers have nothing to offer insects and they receive no visitors. On the other hand, as they are not pollinated the flowers last for rather longer than would otherwise be the case.

Erythronium 'Pagoda'. My garden in Byfield.
2 May, 2013

My clump of E. "Pagoda" is steadily spreading and is perfectly happy in a neutral loam with dappled sunlight. 

Another I grow is Erythronium californicum in a selected form called "White Beauty. As a species rather than a hybrid it may produce seed and, as it grows adjacent to "Pagoda", any offspring could be interesting.

Erythronium dens-canis in my garden.
29 March, 2014
The third one I grow is Erythronium dens-canis. This is the only European member of the genus and occurs in woodlands in southern Europe. It gets its odd name from the white bulbs, which resemble dogs' teeth. It is a short plant - not more than 2-3 inches in height - and therefore not as immediately eye-catching as the first two. However, its lovely delicate lilac blooms and striking mottled leaves make it my favourite and, fortunately, it too is spreading.

Other species are in cultivation, many from North America, and I'll be keeping my eyes open for them.

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