Muscari

Planting muscari is easy, as it will grow anywhere

Apart from their startling blue colouration, muscari, or grape hyacinths, are often viewed as unremarkable spring-flowering bulbs, best used for underplanting more flamboyant tulips. But there’s more to muscari than meets the eye, with some fabulous colour variants and extraordinary flower structures.

From the 42 known species, only 27 are in general cultivation, with M. armeniacum, M. botryoides, M. comosum and M. latifolium among the most well established. 

Breeders are now bringing in new colour breaks and selecting distinctive shades from existing varieties to swell the choice for gardeners.

Others species have interesting characteristics such as M. latifolium, which changes shade as the first flowers age to reveal two tones of blue. 

Muscari grow naturally around the Mediterranean basin, into North Africa and through into central and south-western Asia, usually in well-drained soil, with winter moisture and a hot, dry summer a clue to how they’re best grown.

Planted in autumn with other spring bulbs they’re easy to grow, performing best in full sun to light shade, in most well-drained soils, except thin chalk ones and those too rich in nutrients.

Once happy, they’ll soon clump up, with some such as M.b armeniacum able to naturalise in gravel gardens, borders and short grassland. They’re also great in pots.

The astonishing sterile flower heads of the tassel flower M. comosum ‘Plumosum’ can be damaged by blustery, cold winds, so avoid planting them in an exposed position.

Sedums

With starry blooms Sedums attract bees and butterfies

There are more than 600 species of sedum and, although some are frost tender, those from the northern hemisphere include some really useful garden plants. Most are succulent with fleshy leaves and stems, and although the starry flowers are small, they are often produced in such profusion they cover the leaves completely.

Many make useful ground cover or rockery plants and are often used to plant green roofs, but perhaps the most popular are the large herbaceous kinds. 

The grey leaves of the larger types, often tinged with purple, are attractive all summer.

Their heads of starry blooms, mostly in shades of pink, attract butterflies and bees and are perfect in front of late asters and chrysanths.

All sedums prefer well-drained soil and will survive drought, though the bigger kinds tolerate moisture and will grow in average conditions.

They all prefer sunny sites and may get straggly and not flower so well in shade.

The low-growing varieties are best grown on rock gardens, or in gravel, but may be troublesome because each leaf can grow into a new plant.

This isn’t the case with the larger kinds, which should be divided every three or four years.

Pinch out the growing tips of the large varieties in May to increase bushiness and help prevent stems flopping later in summer.

To find out the best Sedums for bright autumn colour, pick up your copy of Garden News in shops today, or subscribe to get the latest issue!