Snakesheads in the Woodland.

One area of the little woodland at the back of the house is always rather damp, I found out the hard way, by planting lots of things and watching while they died because there was too much moisture in the soil. A few bulbs of snakes head fritillaries, Fritillaria meleagris, were planted and they obviously loved the conditions.

F. meleagris


They soon started to seed about and year on year they are now increasing wonderfully.


The first ones that I planted as bulbs were all this dark purple colour.


But the seedlings come up in such a variety of colours, from pure white through to purple.


We have some little Californian Iris in the same area, they are the same shades of purple, lilac and white that the fritillaries are and I think go so well together.


Got down on my knees one day to take a few photos, thought I would get close and personal, getting down was ok, but getting up was another matter, where are husbands when you need them!!


Can’t believe how many we now have, all from a few seeds scattered in early summer.


The markings are absolutely fantastic aren’t they?! Easy to see how they got their name.


I just think they are such beautiful flowers and fantastic that they like our damp soil, if anyone has a problem damp area, then these are the plants for you, they will love it!


The sunlight coming through the petals look as though they are Tiffany lampshades with the lights switched on! The white ones don’t have quite the same effect, you can’t see the chequered pattern on the petals.


When the seedheads are formed I will still sprinkle some seed here in the same area but will also take some round to the bog garden and start a colony off there. We are so lucky to have so many different areas which suit so many different varieties of plants, hadn’t a clue when we bought the house, it has all been a steep learning curve, and we are still learning that this plot has such a lot to offer!

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20 Responses to Snakesheads in the Woodland.

  1. Yummy, really looking forward to seeing mine this year. I actually counted the blooms last year, so I can see if there is an increase or decrease. And I WILL sprinkle the seeds, want loads more!

  2. wellywoman says:

    They are so beautiful. They have a good amount at the Savill Garden in Windsor Park but I have to say I think your collection rivals it. How amazing to have them in your garden in such numbers. They are so unusual and the flowerheads make me think of lanterns.

  3. Pauline says:

    Sprinkle away Deborah, they don’t seem to take many years before they are flowering! Hope yours are out by the time you get home!

  4. Pauline says:

    Thank you WW, what a compliment! I will try them in the bog garden next but the lawn next to it is always damp so maybe I could pretend it is a flood meadow and plant some there!!

  5. Liz says:

    Hi Pauline,

    They’re gorgeous and I’m not at all envious… Honest ;)
    Oh how I’d love to have a field of them like that!!! The only reliably wet area I have is also very shady, so I’m not sure how well they’d do there… I might have to try some next year and hope for the best.

  6. Pauline says:

    Liz, mine are in the woodland, which soon becomes shady for the rest of the year once the leaves are on the trees. At the moment they are in dappled shade, I think if you have wet shade they are definitely worth a try, hope you are successful as they are so beautiful.

  7. catmint says:

    until you mentioned Tiffany lampshades I was going to say how they are like the intricate patterns on Tiffany lampshades. I suppose the designers got their ideas from nature, still do. Extraordinarily delicate patterns, thank you for getting down so close for us. I think gardening for me is about finding plants I love that can naturalize in any given ecosystem and then letting them go, just as you’ve done with these beauties. They’ll never have a place in my dry garden, so I’ll just love yours instead.

  8. I love this plant too and it seeds all over my woods in the nasty soil, not moist by any means.

  9. Pauline says:

    Catmint, you can share mine any time! It’s lovely to see them spreading happily in such a problem spot and looking so pretty while they do it. Like you, I am now going for drifts of plants in the borders that are obviously happy, rather than having a collection of rarities that are struggling!

  10. Pauline says:

    Interesting Carolyn, to hear that yours are not demanding moist soil, maybe I should try it in other areas. It could be that they only need moisture if they are planted in the sun. Where they grow naturally in England as wild flowers, they are usually in meadows that flood periodically, only a few areas left now as farmers drain most of their land.

  11. wildgardener says:

    Wow, they look fantastic – I’m really envious. And what a good example of making a negative (boggy ground) into a positive.

  12. Pauline says:

    Thanks for visiting Julian, I’m glad you like the fritillaries! Having so much wet soil here ( we have an underground stream) I had to get all the books out and find out what would be happy there. I am sorting out our bog garden at the moment with lots of new primulas, astilbe, meconopsis and iris, hopefully it will look nice next year!

  13. Alberto says:

    Pauline, you have just shocked me. I’ve always thought that f. meleagris needed like almost all other fritillarias a rather dry, well drained spot. That’s why I planted something like 30 little bulbs in pots and in the gravel border and I only have a gran total of 5 flowers (one of them chewed) and probably 25 dead fritillarias… I hate myself now.
    Your fritillaria meadow looks amazing and those irises are just in the right place at the right time!
    PS: you made me laugh when you wrote you knelt down to take pictures and couldn’t stand up again… I know I should take it seriously but I figured you calling your husband from amongst fritillarias in some far away part of the garden… :)

  14. Pauline says:

    Your poor flowers Alberto, I do sympathise, I think they are the only fritillary that doesn’t like dry soil in the sun! Some people can gow them in dryish soil in the shade, but I think in the sun, they do need moisture. Save the seed of your 5 flowers and you will soon have plenty.
    My husband was in the house when I took my photos, maybe I should have had more sense and waited until he was outside with me, we never like to admit to growing old do we ?!!

  15. Rachael says:

    What a beautiful swathe of fritillaries, they really do look happy growing in your woodland. I’m hoping that my single fritillary will multiply next year – mind you, there was only one last year as well!

  16. easygardener says:

    They are one of my favourite flowers and I do grow them but have not got the damp conditions they really like. The pattern on the petals is quite unique – they are very beautiful flowers. I find the white ones show more to advantage if they are in a gloomy spot.

  17. Pauline says:

    Thank you Rachael, I think I found the right spot for them! Did you dead head your fritillary last year? May I suggest you save the seed when it forms then you can sprinkle it around, hopefully then you will have lots more in a few years time!

  18. Pauline says:

    A few people are saying that they grow fritillaries Easy gardener, without damp soil, so I suppose it isn’t essential for them. I think they need it wet when they are in the sun, they should be ok in the shade. I agree, the white ones show up really well in the shade and set off the purple ones, hope yours continue to flourish.

  19. beautiful show Pauline, I’ve not seen seedpods on the one that appeared in my damp meadow 2 years ago but as there are 2 in my little front bed it must have seeded them as there are not others another appeared in the damp meadow this year so I have a grand total of 4 after twice as many years, I’m beginning to wonder if my damp meadow isn’t as damp as I think though I noticed some people say they grow them in less damp areas perhaps they like clay and not peat, like Catmint I enjoyed seeing yours, Frances

  20. Pauline says:

    Thanks Frances, it seems from what everyone else is saying that the fritillaries might only need moisture if they are in the sun. You could have a point though about the peat, havn’t heard that they like that!

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