Erythroniums are better known as Dog’s Tooth Violets. This name is nothing whatsoever to do with the shape of the elegant flowers or decorative foliage, but rather because of the shape of the bulbs from which they grow. They are one of those plants that, when you are trying to find a plant for that difficult, shady area of the garden, are absolutely indispensible.
Erythroniums thrive in part or full shade, but require plenty of moisture. They perform best in a woodland or meadow area, but also are suited to a shady border or container. They are a hardy perennial bulb which will delight you each spring for many years to come. The spring flowers are long lasting and appear while many plants are still in their winter slumber. Atop each stem there are often multiple blooms.
The glossy foliage can also be decorative, with some varieties bearing mottled leaves. Do not be dismayed however when the foliage dies down in summer as this is part of their natural growth habit, and not a sign of poor health. Over a period of years the clumps will multiply and expand, and can eventually be divided after flowering to expand your stock. Plants will reach a height of up to 40cm (16in) and a spread of around 25cm (10in).
Bulbs should be planted in drifts in Autumn, for spring flowering. Plant around 10cm (4in) apart and 10cm (4in) deep.
Erythronium californicum ‘White Beauty’
These look wonderful when allowed to form naturalistic drifts in a woodland setting, and as they are reasonably vigorous in nature, they are also one of the easiest to grow. Their leaves, which form a basal clump, are softly marbled, and it is from amongst these that the slender stems rise up in spring, each bearing up to 3 nodding white flowers. These are made up of strongly recurved and pointed tepals (petals), that surround a prominent cluster of white stamens. A truly elegant plant in every way.
Each stem of this plant will carry up to 10 nodding, sulphur yellow flowers with a brown central ring and deep yellow anthers. The foliage can be equally showy as it has either bronze-mottled, or fainter white marbling on the deep green, glossy leaves. In early spring this combination makes a very colourful display in woodlands and meadows. This is a vigorous plant which will form clumps and spread.
The foliage of this charming dog’s tooth violet is a lush green, but is heavily marbled with purple-brown. It makes a great show all on its own, but the best bit is when the slender, upright stems emerge from the clump in spring bearing nodding pink-purple flowers. The petals are sharply recurved so the flowers look like they have been grown in a wind tunnel when fully open, but this just helps to reveal their yellow anthers.
Warning – bulbs should not be eaten by humans or pets
All images and descriptions copyright Crocus
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