Year of Grace, Day 146. Two fritillaries

These two seemingly unrelated beauties actually belong to the same family of Fritillaria.

This one, Fritillaria meleagris, is a survivor. It’s the only one  that escaped predation when its other companions got their heads snapped off the other week. I never tire of gazing at its structure and pattern. There is also a cream-coloured one, but that one got eaten by snails, alas.

NACHTIGAL survivor fritillary xlnt!_7447

And this one, so many times larger and grander, is the appropriately named Fritillaria imperialis. It’s the first time for me to grow it, and it’s being promoted as a mole deterrent — due no doubt to the foxy scent of its flowers. Its efficacy has yet to be proved though. I haven’t planted it in the ground, as I also have voles wandering under my garden, and they might think it is just the very thing for an exotic meal. Voles are vegetarians, btw.

Fritillaria imperialis

Fritillaria imperialis

To have these two beauties blooming at the same time in my garden is truly wonderful, and I feel blessed. Thank you, Creator of the Universe!

Year of Grace, Day 141. In praise of the fritillary

The other day I was checking out the incipient buds on my little clump of fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) whose exquisite flowers I have been anticipating with delight for weeks. To my dismay, they had disappeared! Had a vole decided to have them for a snack, I wondered?

I had purposely planted them inside a tough, rustproof metal screen buried into the ground to deter vegetarian voles. The other burrowing residents in my garden are moles, and the metal cage was meant to deter them as well. Though they are carnivores and aren’t likely to eat plants, they do dig tunnels and are likely to damage bulbs and roots. (The way to distinguish whether you have voles or moles is the type of exit hole. A mole leaves a surrounding mound of earth around the exit, like a volcano, whereas a vole doesn’t – its exit is a neat cavity. So where does it put all that excavated soil, I wonder? And another tip: voles are vegetarians, moles are meat eaters.)

Or could the culprit perhaps be a slug or snail? My heart had fallen at the loss, as these damp-loving lilies have the most fascinating, complex pattern ever. And they are one of the flowers that I most look forward to in spring. Straight lines and squares do not occur in nature, or so goes received wisdom. But have a closer look at these snakeshead fritillaries (another name for them) and you will see a checkerboard pattern, which is why they are also known as Schachbrettblume (chessboard flower) in German. These are not the hapless fallen ones, btw, but ones I photographed years ago in a garden in my old neighbourhood of Dottendorf.FRITTILARY perfect

Going closer to investigate any telltale trails left by a snail, I noticed the fallen buds lying on the ground. Dismay turned to hope. There was no snail or slug slime on them. I rushed them into the house and plunged them at once into water, hoping to revive them. One of the buds was showing a bit of pattern, the other was still pale and colourless. At least I could photograph them, I thought.

Imagine then my joy when the larger of the two opened up later that evening! And the other one – the tiny pale one  – also began to look like its namesake, a mini snakehead.

So here they are, my lovelies – these fritillary lilies whose complexity and beauty never fail to arouse inspiration and awe in me. The only quality they are missing — if one could be unkind enough to say they lack anything – is scent. But that would be gilding this exquisite lily. It is absolutely perfect as it is.

FRITTILARY watery zoom vvg_7393 FRITTILARY floating vg_7385

I am still puzzled though as to how their heads could have been snapped off so cleanly. A bird perhaps? Or the furious gales we had a few days ago? No matter. They have survived their ordeal, and recovered sufficiently to provide me with boundless delight, and for me to be able to share their loveliness with you.

The bud on the far left really looks like a snakeshead, with sinister eye and mouth slightly agape. Photographed at a florist on Bonner Talweg.