Erythronium – Bridging the gap

A favourite of mine, these diminutive woodland plants with small flowers, swept-back petals and often mottled leaves are a highlight of the spring woodland garden. Bridging the gap between snowdrops and tulips, erythronium flowers are unique in their shape and form and whilst closely related to tulips, there’s little obvious resemblance.

Also known as dog’s tooth violet, fawn lily and trout lily, their flowers range in colour from white, cream, and yellow to pink and purple.  A few of the over 25 known species are from Europe and Asia, with the majority coming from North America, where two distinct groupings exist between the east and west of the continent.

I find the best place to plant erythronium bulbs is in a woodland garden, or in my case a shady border that doesn’t dry out completely in summer. They do well when used to underplant shrubs and I enrich the soil with leaf mould to create a humus-rich growing medium for them.

The forms I grow are just at their peak right now here in Dublin, nicely bridging the gap before the tulips hit their stride.

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