Today, two tiny plants with BIG names. They do not have much else in common except that they are both spring bulbs and they come from a similar area, in the wild. Both are suitable for growing outside in the UK and Ireland but, because of their diminutive stature, they are best appreciated when grown in pots so they are raised up closer to eye level.
Above is Fritillaria michailovskyi which is a small fritillaria from north east Turkey. It can grow up to 20cm tall but it is often smaller and the purple-brown and golden yellow flowers open almost as soon as the shoots thrust through the soil. The flowers may appear a bit congested at this point but, as the stems elongate, the flowers hang down more as we expect from fritillarias. Strong bulbs can have up to four flowers but one or two is more common. It is not expensive to buy and, in the garden, they do best in a very well drained soil that is rich in organic matter and in full sun. Waterlogging at any time of the year is death to them so planting in a pot may be best in some circumstances.
If you managed to get your tongue around that name have a go with the next one! This little bulb is Scilla mischtschenkoana. It is native to the Caucasus, just north east of Turkey. This little gem is fairly easy to grow in a well drained soil but it is tasty to slugs so a gravel mulch will help keep the flowers clean and uneaten. The flowers are so keen to open that they start to unfurl before the leaves have expanded and before the flower stem is out of the ground. As the flowers mature the stems elongate and each bulb will produce several stems, each with several ice blue flowers.
The reason for the extraordinary name is that it was named for the Russian botanist Pavel Ivanovich Mishcenko (1869-1938). There is a variety of this called ‘Tubergeniana’ named for the famous Van Tubergen bulb company but I am not sure how it differs and this bulb is sometimes simply called Scilla tubergeniana, probably because this is a bit easier to pronounce.