Fritillaria meleagris (Snakeshead fritillary)
First described in the 16th century by John Gerard, the famous herbalist, as a garden plant, it was not recorded in the wild until 1736. Known to have been around for at least 7,000 years, some believe it is a UK native and became isolated when Britain was cut off from mainland Europe after the last Ice Age about 12,000 years ago.
The charming chequered flowers adorn the slender stems from late March to May. Once so common in the Thames Valley and parts of Wiltshire, they were picked in vast quantities and sold in the markets of Birmingham, London and Oxford. However, when ancient meadows were ploughed up during the Second World War to grow food crops, most of their habitats were destroyed. Luckily some meadows still survive around Oxford and few sights are more spectacular in spring.
Fritillaria meleagris thrives in moist, well drained soil. Buy fresh plump bulbs and plant them 10cm (4″) deep and 10cm (4″) apart in a damp spot in your garden, with a little well-rotted manure or garden compost. Equally suitable for garden borders or for naturalising in grass. (Remember you may cut the grass as many times as you like when the plant is below ground, but leave it long when growing, flowering, setting seed or dying back.)
LOVELY FRESH BULBS NOW AVAILABLE! £1.95 for 10.
Red Riding Hood – £1.20 for 10, £5.75/50.
Peacock Mixed – £1.20 for 10, £5.75/50.
Mixed triumph tulips – £1.40 for 10, £6.50/50.
Shirley – £1.40 for 10.
Spring Green (Viridiflora tulip) – £2.20 for 10.
Praestans ‘Unicum’ (red flowers, variegated leaves) – £2.20 for 10.
Dwarf mixed daffodils – £1.20 for 10, £5.75/50.
Tall mixed daffodils (limited supply) – 2kg for £3.
Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) – 70p for 10.
Mixed Dutch crocus – 80p for 10, £3.75/50.
Mixed species crocus – 80p for 10, £3.75/50.