Early Spring Flowers

BASKET OF GOLD

basket of goldCOMMON NAME:  basket of gold
GENUS:  Alyssum  {although this plant is generally listed in catalogs as Alyssum saxatile, it can also be listed in the genus Aurinia}
SPECIES, HYBRIDS, CULTIVARS,
A. saxatile  ‘Citrinum’-pale yellow flowers.
A.s. ‘Compactum’-bright yellow flowers; shorter plants.
A.s. ‘Flora Plenum’-double form; bright yellow; each flower is like a miniature rose.
FAMILY:  Cruciferae
BLOOMS:  early spring
TYPE:  perennial
DESCRIPTION:  Basket of gold is characterized by masses of yellow flowers. This is a splendid plant to use in rock gardens or as an edging plant. It is also quite effective in hanging baskets or in containers.
CULTIVATION:  Alyssum prefers slightly acidic, not-so-rich soil that is well drained. Plants should be set out in the spring or fall. Seeds can be sown outdoors in seedbeds in late May. They should bloom from seed in approximately six weeks. After the plant blooms, cut it back to about half its height to stimulate new growth.

Basket of gold was brought to the United States from Crete in the early 1700’s. The genus name, Alyssum, comes from two Greek words, a, meaning “without,” and lysson, meaning “rage” or “madness.” The plant was given this name because at one time it was used to cure hydrophobia and other mental disorders. Other common names include madwort, also alluding to its supposed medicinal powers, and gold dust, referring to its lovely yellow gold yellows. A. maritimum {also referred to as Lobularia maritima} originally grew by the sea, as indicated by the name. This species has a lovely honey scent and is wonderful to include in a seaside garden.
According to superstition, if you wear a sprig of a basket of gold, it will prevent anyone from getting angry with you.
Much confusion persists about the genus name. Although the original genus was divided into several new groupings, species found within this genus can now be found either as Lobularia or Aurinia, as well as Alyssum.

Basket of gold makes a very good cut flower.

glory in the snowGLORY OF THE SNOW

COMMON NAME:  glory of the snow
GENUS:  Chionodoxa
SPECIES, HYBRIDS, CULTIVARS,
C. luciliae  ‘Alba’-white
C. l. ‘Gigantea’-large blue flowers, 2 inches across
C. sardensis-small, intensely blue flowers.
FAMILY:  Liliaceae
BLOOMS: early spring
TYPE:  perennial
DESCRIPTION:  Beautiful star-shaped flowers in blue or white bloom very early in spring, sometimes even before the snow is gone. Used in mass plantings, these plants can be spectacularly beautiful. Their neat, compact growing habit makes them good for growing in rock gardens.
CULTIVATION:  Bulbs of the glory of the snow should be planted in early fall, 2 to 3 inches deep, in full sun or partial shade. Plants may need dividing occasionally. It will self-sow fairly readily.

The genus name has been translated exactly to give us the common name. Chion means “snow,” and doxa means “glory.” It’s early blooms often come while there is still snow on the ground. The species was named for Lucile Boissier, wife of a botanist from Geneva, Edmond Boissier. Mrs. Boissier died while accompanying her husband on a plant exploration trip to Spain in 1849.
The bright blue of the blossoms provides a welcome spot of color in a late winter floral arrangement.

Discovered in 1842, the glory of the snow was found growing at a height of 7,000 feet in mountain meadows of Turkey. Discoverers called it the “most sumptuous display of floral beauty.” A native of Crete and Asia Minor, it was introduced into cultivation in 1877.

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