by Eileen Shone
I don’t know when I became aware of these bulbs but certainly for the last 20 years I have had some in the garden. The first were a Mother’s Day gift and they were ‘Pagoda’, a nice green leaf with some light white marbling and sunny yellow flowers that are still going strong under the beech tree in the back garden. Currently I have about 5 clumps all with buds promising flowers in early April.
Searching around plant fairs and our visiting speakers stalls I have found others such as ‘Joanna’ which has yellow flowers that age to an apricot colour. Curious as to their parentage I discovered that ‘Joanna’ is a cross between Erythronium tuolumnense and Erythronium revolutum. Pagoda is also a cross with E.tuolumnense but the other parent is E californicum ‘White beauty’. I have E tuolumnense and its flowers are smaller and more delicate looking than ‘Pagoda’ and I like its simple beauty. Buds are forming in that one too. I think they appreciated the damp autumn. Like many genera the plant breeders are busy raising new hybrids.
Then I noticed the leaf form of others like E. dens canis, mottled and spotted making them very attractive. One of the common names for Erthronium is dog toothed violet and this comes from the shape of the bulb which resembles a dog’s canine tooth. They are also called trout lilies due to the markings on the leaf that look like the markings on the side of a trout. But I digress, soon I was on the lookout for different ones. One of my favourites is ‘Purple King’, which despite having a bearded iris growing on top of it, has come up and is flowering well in the middle of March.