new to me; Fritillaria persica and others


Last spring a local nursery had planted whiskey barrels with Fritillaria persica. Which jarred me into the realization that I could too, that fritillaries were a green light on the Oregon coast.


This March it is such a kick to see the Persian lily in bloom, even if it’s only the one (they’re expensive). Planted in a 20-gallon galvanized bin also holding a still dormant Salvia ‘Amante’, I can now affirm that its reputation for distinctive beauty was not exaggerated or a trick of photography. Liberated from books and magazines to become a tangible thing in my garden this spring, it’s one of those tiny watershed moments in a gardener’s life. This gardener’s life anyway.


‘Miner’s Merlot’ euphorbia, also new to me, hits similar color notes. But unlike the fritillary, I know euphorbias fairly well and can mentally place them in a context that I just can’t for the fritillary. One is familiar, the other exotic. Technically, both are exotic, with ‘Miner’s Merlot’ a form of Euphorbia x martinii, a naturally occurring hybrid native to France, and the fritillary native to southern Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and other Middle Eastern countries. But “exotic” does not only denote geography, it can mean a bracing unfamiliarity that stirs the imagination, as in this fritillary reminds me of an exotic treasure Marco Polo would have brought to dazzle the court of Kublai Khan.

Euphorbia ‘Miner’s Merlot’
Rumex sanguineus, the “bloody dock” or red-veined sorrel

Continuing the color theme somewhat, the bloody dock has unexpectedly had great presence all winter. I’ve read of but never grown this edible ornamental before — but who could forget a common name like “bloody dock”? Nice to put a name to a face. Loves moisture so is thriving here.

Lunaria ‘Corfu Blue’

And there’s lots of what might be considered mundane that is new to me too, like the biennial lunaria, or money plant, famous for its translucent seedpods. Lunaria is out early, willing to cover cold ground, taking space away from weeds. (Weeds are prodigious here, with bright green bindweed seedlings emerging daily, something to tackle with the first cup of coffee.) ‘Corfu Blue’ is said to possibly be perennial. Along with ‘Corfu Blue,’ I’ve also sown the purple-leaved Lunaria ‘Chedglow.’ If all goes well, this year should bring my first encounter with those storied seedpods apart from admiring them in the dried flower stall at the Los Angeles Flower Market.

Lunaria annua ‘Chedglow’

What looks like straw in the above photo is a combination of grasses I’ve been cutting back since February. Early grasses like deschampsia were cut back first, as new growth at the base appeared. Just recently I’ve cut back the other grasses including miscanthus, so beautiful all winter, a favorite winter presence along with eryngiums and Digitalis ferruginea.

“straw” comes from chopped remains of last summer’s grasses. Still feels like a magic trick to me, that a summer garden can rise up again

Deciduous grasses have been easier to deal with than evergreen grasses like sesleria, which need trimming, raking and grooming instead of a one-time buzzcut. I generally avoided cutting back perennials like penstemon and salvia until new basal growth was visible. Anecdotally, survival chances seem enhanced when the old top growth is left over winter, and hearing the garden rattled by birds seeking food and cover is another winter pleasure. So cutting back the garden for spring has been an ongoing activity depending on the plant, not a one-and-done event, and there’s still a few things to cut back. But the garden has definitely left its tall beige winter phase and entered the green stubble phase, which thankfully is short-lived.

Carex ‘Everillo’ and the first to bloom Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’

The various carex have been flawless all winter, including a carex lookalike grass from New Zealand, Chionochloa rubra, which I’d argue is more strawberry blonde than rubra. Very slow growing, with a long period of belonging to the exasperating club of “Is it alive or dead?” Now that it’s larger, other colors are emerging, greens and gold, and it’s taking on some personality.

Chionochloa rubra from New Zealand aka Red Tussock Grass

I’m glad I stuck with the Red Tussock Grass, moving it to a more prominent position where its form can best be appreciated — a spot that always seems to be in the gravel intended for the broad walkway…

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8 Responses to new to me; Fritillaria persica and others

  1. Kris P says:

    It’s got to be fun to branch out into a whole new territory, Denise. I tried growing both Rumex and Lunaria here at one point but neither effort was successful. ‘Miner’s Merlot’ Euphorbia has shown up for sale here recently. I passed on it when I initially found it in 6-inch pots, regretting that later. This weekend I found it in 2-gallon containers for what I considered an exorbitant price so I shall be looking further afield (or ordering from Annie’s, which is also carrying it).

  2. Denise says:

    @Kris, it’s really interesting to have new garden puzzles to solve, new stuff to research. I checked to see if I’ve grown rumex before and found a blog reference to a Rumex flexuosa which was such a cool plant! So many plants grown and forgotten…thank goodness for the blog record! And yes, I’m finding plants increasingly pricey too and have resorted more and more to seeds when possible — which it’s not in the case of the euphorbia.

  3. I’m so glad you’re enjoying your Fritillaria persica. I’ve had a long love for that one, but have held off ever adding it to my garden since a shovel would pierce that expensive bulb as I went seeking empty space to plant. Perhaps I need to follow your lead and grow it in a container…

  4. Denise says:

    @Loree, I am shocked how full of bulbs the garden is already. No way I’d plant the Persian lily in the garden, they’re too pricey. I’m curious if it will multiply in the container. There’s a lime green/yellow one coming along too.

  5. Chavli says:

    Oh, my! That Fritillaria persica stopped my breath!
    I had a similar experience Sunday last, at the Bellevue Botanical Garden: I spotted a blooming Fritillaria imperialis Kaiser’s crown in their fabulous perennial border.
    I’ve never grown (any) Fritillaria before: now I want both of them.

  6. Elaine says:

    There are so many gorgeous fritallaria available. Persica is one of the most beautiful. Frits can be fussy but if they decide they like their spot they propagate and self seed all about. I have quite a nice clump of purple and white Snakes head fritallary. Nobody likes to eat them either. There’s also a large pot of Fritallaria imperialis which is beautiful but unfortunately (to my dismay) smells of cat urine. Best placed further away then where you walk or sit.

  7. Jerry says:

    We tried making spring sorrel soup with our bloody dock a few years ago. It was fine, but the red and green cooked up to a rather unappetizing color and the leaves were a little tough. The soup turned out much better when we used the much more tart sheep’s sorrel instead. Bloody dock is pretty, but I usually end up cutting it back hard once the flowers come up and the leaf miner damage gets bad. Really surprising to see you have Geums blooming already – ours have just started to grow, no flower buds yet. Love seeing your Oregon garden thrive. March is such a beautiful month around here.

  8. Tracy says:

    Your garden looks great, it is really jumping into action! The Fritillaria is beautiful.

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