The chequered Snake Head’s Fritillary at Cricklade

The beautiful and enchanting snake head’s fritillary which emerges in April every year is one of Spring’s delights. Fritllaria meleagris is a bulbous plant that will put on a great show in your garden. In the Liliaceae family its delicate chequered blooms and its snake like markings explain how it got its name. The leaves are lance shaped with squared shaped bells for flowers that sit at the end of the elegant stems. They could be mistaken for being hand painted which supports how this flower through history has influenced art nouveau designers. William Morris used the fritillary in some of his famous fabrics and Charles Rennie Mackintosh made a painting of it in 1915. Vita Sackville West described it as ‘sullen and foreign looking, the snaky flower’ (The Land 1927).  Plant fritillaries in your garden in damp soil as typically in the wild they grow near a flood plain. Ideally always plant the bulbs in autumn or if you have not enough space why not try them in terracotta pots? If you want to see fritillaries en masse go to North Meadow at Cricklade which is an (SSSI) site in Gloucestershire.   Here you will see thousands growing in an unimproved lowland hay meadow which has been managed in the same way for the last 700 years. Due to modern farming techniques there are only 1000 hectares of unimproved lowland hay meadow remaining in the UK which makes it a very rare sight.

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Kirsty Wilson

Horticulture is my inspiration! I am the Herbaceous Supervisor at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Photographer, Award winning Garden Designer, BBC Beechgrove Garden Television Presenter & BBC Radio 4 GQT Panellist. I want to inspire people to grow plants, connect with nature and have a positive impact on the world.

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