Valerie Finnis

'Valerie Finnis'
Grape Hyacinths


"Every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in her Lap from some once lovely Head."

-The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
tr. by Edward Fitzgerald,
1809-1883

   

This April photo shows the grape hyacinth clone Muscari armeniacum muscari 'Valerie Finnis' with its pallid powder-blue flowers, while in the background are thick patches of Muscari botryoides, & to the right is lower limb of a 'Hino Crimson' azalea.

The name Valerie Finnis is after Lady Scott, wife of Sir David Scott. The unusual muscari appeared inexplicably in her English garden. Together the Scotts built a fabulous alpine garden with associated nursery, & Lady Scott was for thirty years a lecturer at Waterperry Horticultural College

Though Lady Scott was world-famed for discovering sports & variants worthy of commercial cultivation, with her name today attached to several gardened plants, this one she could not recall ever having obtained. As her equally garden-loving husband had recently died, it was never known if he had planted something unusual, or if so where he may have gotten the bulbs.

In consequence of their obscured origin, not everyone is convinced they are M. armeniacum, & they are occasionally offered as M. neglectum. But the Royal Horticultural Society identifies it as M. armeniacum, & they usually get things right.

Lady Scott gave specimens of the mysterious muscari to her friend, well-known plantsman Wayne Roderick (d. 2003), who began growing them in his alpine garden in northern California. Wayne in turn gave specimens to a visiting nurseryman from Holland, Win H. de Goede. Win began to propagate them at de Goede Bulbvaria (Bulb Farm) in Breezaned, & Win named them after Lady Valerie Finnis Scott, she having been responsible for introducing many other unusual cultivars. They reached the market in the year 2000.

Many Grape Hyacinth species, & in particular M. botryoides, can spread very dramatically, to the point that some people find them a nuisance. But in the case of 'Valerie Finnis,' a six inch tall cultivated form of the Turkish species M. armeniacum, the flowers are sterile. It therefore spreads very slowly, & only in its own immediate vicinity, via bulb offsets.

This is an excellent choice of Grape Hyacinth for anyone who worries about the invasive capacity of wilder-behaving types of grape hyacinths. Apart from their slowness to spread, 'Valerie Finnis' does naturalize quite pleasingly, reblooming every spring.

We a planted a second group of 'Valerie Finnis' bulbs in autumn 2003, placing them amidst or around some Crocus speciosus ssp speciosus. The more aggressive M. botryoides was attempting to displace 'Valerie Finnis' or at least obscure her presence, but we daren't transplant the smaller paler muscari because there'd be no way to keep M. botryoides bulblets from being transplanted with them. So in autumn 2004 we planted another twenty 'Valerie Finnis' in a spot she could have all to herself, at a garden edge not far from the dripline of an 'Oceanlake' dwarf evergreen rhododendron.

'Valerie Finnis' is undemanding & low maintainance. The fragrant blooms are strongest in April & May, by which time M. boytryoides & our M. armeniacum cultivars 'Dark Eyes' & 'Cote d'Azur' will already have been flowering for three to five weeks.

They tend to bloom sufficiently early that deciduous shrubs are still not entirely re-leafed while the muscari is in flower, but if they do end up in a bit more shade at bloom time, this won't slow them down, & may even cause the blooms to last a bit longer since they fade faster in full sun.

They require well drained moist soil during the spring, followed by a little dryness in summer when they become dormant & die back to the ground.

   



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