Turkish Fritillaries


A spring delight, Fritillaria michailowskyi is a miniature fritillary from Turkey. Michaelovski first described it in 1904, but it took decades to get specimens to western gardeners.

FritillaryThe Brian & Margaret Mathew & John & Helen Tomlinson Expedition to Turkey in 1965 brought back the first specimens for horticulturalists in England. They still for some while remained terribly rare in the nursery trade, but today it is cultivated for a wide market & is one of the more easily obtained fritillaries from bulb specialists.

The Checkered Lily F. meleagris has been longer available & still the most popularly seen. Even though the Checkered Lily is hard to beat for its easiness & its unique webbed or checkered coloration, the Turkish or Michaelowsky Fritillary does just about outdo it, having pretty pendant yellow-frilled purple bells in late March, April & May.

They do not all rise up at once & even bulbs planted side by side in identical conditions, one can reach full bloom the third week of March, while others around it are barely poking out of the ground, waiting for April to flower. The higher photo was snapped in April (2001), & the second photo is from late March (2004).

Michaelovski's Fritillary likes best full sun & rich moist soil. Most fritillaries are a little bit delicate in Northwest gardens, but this one, like the Checkered Lily & the Fox's Grape (F. uva-vulpis), is an exception, though being third-easiest rather than first or second, it may take a couple tries to find just the right location for it to return each year better than the last.

Just so long as it is in well-drained soil that doesn't get too moist during winter dormancy, it will self-seed as well as multiply its bulbs, thus spreading slowly about an area of the garden. It is so pretty & so small (eight inches on average) that it is never intrusive, so is welcome to spread.

A woodland garden in particular can never have too many fritillaries popping up in unexpected places. We have planted Michaelovski's frits three years running in three locations, & will probably add more autumn bulbs here & there in years to come, as there's no such thing as too many small fritillaries.


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