Of the Scillas, Scilla sibirica is probably the most common - and admired! There are others outlined below which will also please.
Blue is the predominant colour of the flowers of the Scilla bulbs, but there are also a few whites and a pink worth growing.
All Scillas are spring flowering - March being the start, though sometimes earlier. The image below was taken on March 15th. The flowers are well advanced on this, so safe to assume some initial colour in first week of March.
There is nothing quite like the vivid blue flowers of Scilla sibirica, even though sometimes you will have to go hunting for it - being just a few inches tall - 4-6in in a good season!
The Scillas generally, are well suited to being naturalised in drifts below trees, in woodland or even in grass - providing you do not rush about with the lawnmower until all of the foliage had died off.
Scillas are a great choice for following on from the snowdrops naturalised in such positions - and sometimes, it is possible to have the later snowdrops and earlier Scillas at the same time. I have yet to see that, but I am sure that it is possible, for I have photographed both on the same day - although in different parts of the garden.
All Scilla bulbs are available as dormant bulbs in early Autumn and should be planted as soon as possible. They are also available as pots of flowering plants - the nurseryman well aware of how valuable they are at an otherwise dreary time of year - for weather and cashflow!
Scillas are the same family as Hyacinths - Hyacinthaceae - and the individual flowers are akin to the florets on the Hyacinth spikes.
Scilla bulbs are small, but should nevertheless be planted at a depth of around 4in deep. Plant the bulbs in early autumn - and potted flowering plants in Spring. They can be planted in most soils that are well drained. The dormant bulbs in summer, do not like to be in permanently wet ground.
Scilla sibirica and others are suited to rockery positions, or different areas such as woodland or under shrubs. If in woodland, then in areas where there is not too dense a carpet of leaf littler from the autumn leaf fall. If naturalised in lawns, best in areas where they can be left to die down naturally before mowing that particular area. They mingle well with other early bulbs, but the vivid blue deserves its own drift - spectacular!
Squirrels tend to go hunting round for newly planted bulbs - as do field mice (so sadly declining). Throw a roll of chicken wire over the area and remove in the spring to deter squirrels.
Scillas are easy to look after - the least done, the better they seem to do. Naturalised drifts rarely need to be divided - just leave them - unless you want to rob the drifts of bulbs for other areas.
A window box full of Scillas is something to look forward to in early spring - or probably late winter if the window box is on a sunny/warm windowsill. They are also good for planting in hanging baskets - around the rim with Scilla sibirica for the flowers hang their heads. Patio containers - either full of Scillas or mingled art the edge of crocus and the like, make for a bright few weeks in the early part of the year. Might even tempt you out in the garden or on the patio to admire them. No scent worth talking of.
Plant up a few pots to be bought indoors for the winter. Leave outdoors until first green starts to pop through, and then enjoy the emerging flowers indoors.
Growing Scillas from seed is easy - but takes a few years to get into flower. Sow harvested seed as soon as ripe - place in cold frame or cold greenhouse. Too much heat will delay germination of Scilla seeds. They will show through in around 6-8 weeks.
Digging up and then division of the bulbs after - take off the offsets - in autumn is the quicker way to amass another belt of vivid blue. Plant in their flowering positions - but expect to wait a further year before any flowers of consequence are seen.
By David Hughes - email@example.com