John Scheepers2017

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In Focus: Hyacinthoides hispanica Excelsior
Eager, Prolific Naturalizers
Previously classified as Endymion or Scilla campanulata, Hyacinthoides hispanica Excelsior has over a dozen pendant, 3/4", bell-shaped, blue-violet flowers with darker marine-blue midveins on 12" to 15" stems. (Over time, as it establishes itself, it may grow even taller depending on sunlight and site conditions.) Each flower has two narrow matching bracts at the stem juncture. Its romantic, somewhat fairy tale-like, flowering stems grow above substantive, thick, strappy blue-green foliage that emerges before the flowers, and lasts well afterwards. Native to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), it is a cherished heirloom, dating back to the early 1600s. Excelsior multiplies by the formation of little bulblets on the sides of each mother bulb and, possibly, by reseeding itself once it has established itself happily in the garden. They are incredibly prolific~normally considered to be a very good thing. They help create a magical Wizard of Oz-like ambiance to the garden. And, to top it all off, Hyacinthoides hispanica makes one sweet little cut flower, and it forces well over the winter (pot them up in mid-October, chill the pots for 6 to 8 weeks at a consistent 35°F to 48°F with occasional light watering, and bring them out into progressively stronger sunlight).

<p >Plant en Masse
As documented in John E. Bryan’s brilliant two-volume encyclopedic work Bulbs, Hyacinthoides hispanica should be planted “in large quantities, not a few at a time, and” should be allowed “to stay in the same location for a number of years”. Bryan noted that it is a “very hardy plant and one that, despite its popularity, deserves to be grown even more”. We agree 100%~don’t be shy. Order 100s and intersperse large clusters of them throughout your clients' perennial gardens, like a recurring melody. Or establish clusters of them spaced here and there throughout the woods. In the spring, your clients will be amazed how their woodlands will shimmer magically in hazy clouds of violet-blue. <p >Excelsior may be distinguished from Hyacinthoides non-scripta, its cousin, the English Bluebell, by its florets that stud all sides of its stem, and its more upright growing and flowering habit. Hyacinthoides hispanica non-scripta (commercially grown in the Netherlands as Scilla nutans) has lightly scented, violet-blue pendant flowers that hang from just one side of its gently arching stem and is a hair shorter. <p >Easy to Plant
Hyacinthoides hispanica Excelsior bulbs should be planted in the fall after the soil has cooled down to around 55 degrees F (after two weeks of sweater weather when night time temps have hovered in the 40s), in neutral pH, well-draining, humus-rich earth. They prefer dappled woodland sunlight with increasing protection from the full strength of the late spring sun. Plant the little 8 cm/up sized bulbs 4″ deep and 4″ apart. Top dress the garden three times a year with a 4-10-6 granular organic flower bulb fertilizer: at fall planting time, spring sprouting time and when the flower starts to die back. If you run the risk of a really cold winter with inconsistent snow cover, apply a 2″ layer of mulch after the top of the ground freezes to prevent these cherished bulbs from experiencing any temperature spiking. It is particularly important since they are planted a bit more shallow than other bulbs. In horticultural zone 5, in a ‘normal’ spring, Excelsior blooms in May. It is a fabulous addition to spring perennial gardens and reawakening woods. Sorry to report that we're sold out of Hyacinthoides hispanica Dainty Maid as well as our hand-blended Hyacinthoides hispanica Mixture, but we do still have inventory available for Hyacinthoides hispanica White City, the snow-white sibling to Excelsior.