Plumed Grape Hyacinth;
aka, Tufted or Feather Muscari
"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly.
"One must have sunshine & a little flower."
-Hans Christian Anderson
Muscari comosum 'Plumosum' is not especially cold-hardy, being damaged when temperatures fall into the low 20s Fahrenheit. In cold regions it may well prove to be a defacto annual, but will even so do quite nicely on those terms.
Here on Puget Sound it does not require winter mulching. Planting it five inches deep is sufficient for it to be protected during rare coldsnaps. If grown in zones six or seven, winter mulching may be required for it to perennialize.
Though it may tolerate a bit of shade & dryness, it really prefers full sun & moisture during the growing season, then dryness during summer dormancy. Native to somewhat arid places around the Mediterranean Sea region, it only occasionally naturalizes in rich moist soil, but the bulbs at least perennialize to last many years, even though there will be little or no spreading.
The flower on 'Plumosum' is sometimes said to be sweet-smelling, but this is inaccurate; it is scentless. In appearance it is unlike any other Grape Hyacinth. It has a fluffy flower on a stubby stalk, though in reality it is not a petalled flower per se that has this look; rather, it is the amazingly many-branching purply-pink stem that gives the cottony impression. It in no way evokes a bunch of grapes, so is better addressed by the name Feather Muscari instead of Grape Hyacinth, as it does look like some sort of purply-pink feather-duster.
The "regular" M. comosum is not cottony looking, but still very odd. It is called Tassel Hyacinth because above the usual bunch of grapes there arises many elongated florets that look like belled tassels, or perhaps mulluscy eye-stalks of a weird sea-creature. The tassels are lilac-purple for the top of the stem, brown & yellow for the lower ones. It has proven to be invasive in several places around the world, unlike the cultivar 'Plumosum.'
The smoky-lavender or plum-colored plume is on a particularly stubby spike, only six or eight inches tall. These blooms are long-lasting in the garden or in miniature bouquets.
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