Blue has been my favourite colour for many years – or at least, it’s the one I name if people insist that I can only have one single favourite colour (when, in truth, I love some shades of every colour of the rainbow, and some more colours beyond that).
Blue has hardly a shade I do not love, and so it is unsurprising that I love all sorts of blue flowers, from the humble little speedwell to forget-me-nots to morning glories and blue hydrangeas. But the ones that hold a special place in my heart are the ‘blue stars’ of my childhood.
Did we call them ‘blue stars’ because we knew that was an actual German plant name, or just because they looked like that? No way to tell now.
They grew all over our northern neighbours’ large garden, part of the colourful carpet of spring flowers under the large trees of that magically beautiful garden.
Along with the small, pale yellow primroses, the blue stars had spread to our garden, turning the otherwise dark and neglected corner between the front shed and the forsythia into a magical place.
They were one of the things I missed when we moved away from that place. We did dig up a clump of primroses and some blue stars to take with us, but they were planted somewhere in the middle of the lawn and forgotten while we tried to make our new house fit to live in. Overgrown with grass and clover, the blue stars nearly disappeared – it was a lucky spring if I could find a flower or two.
I struck a deal with my parents when we moved to that house – I’d take care of the garden, all by myself, and in return, I would be excused from helping with the housework. So I set to creating a vegetable garden, battling grass, weeds and stony ground with spading fork and pickaxe, and to turn the mess left by the bagger in the front garden back into flower beds.
And one thing was clear early on: we would need blue stars again.
Even more so when I went on a school trip to Sweden soon after, to visit our partner school in a place called Linköping. When we were there, in late April, the first flowers were just starting to bloom, and the gardens in my host family’s neighbourhood were carpeted in blue.
To this day I regret that I didn’t take pictures, and I can’t tell for sure if they were the same as the blue stars of my childhood, but even if they weren’t, they were something very similar.
So I went in search of those flowers.
I found a bag of bulbs labeled ‘Blausternchen’, which is German for ‘little blue stars’, and naturally, bought and planted it.
What I got was these:
This picture was taken at the Botanical Gardens, my own were looking rather less presentable.
They were very pretty, but also, doubtlessly, not what I was looking for. So, obviously, my ‘blue stars’ could not be the actual ‘Blausternchen‘ (Squills).
I continued my search, and found Glory-of-the-Snow:
Which looked very nice with my primroses in the shady spot under the elder:
And they grew in masses at the botanical garden:
But they still weren’t what I was looking for. They looked more like my elusive blue stars than the Squills had done, though, so I insisted we call the blue stars Glory-of-the-Snow. Maybe, I thought, these were just bred to have large flowers, and the blue stars were a wild variety?
When did I finally notice that the carpet of blue at the botanical garden consisted of more than one kind of flower?
When did I find a name tag?
But find name tags I did, and I believe I’ve got it now:
This is Scilla siberica, the Siberian Squill:
This is Chionodoxa luciliae, Glory-of-the-Snow:
And the mysterious blue stars?
They are Scilla bifolia, the Alpine Squill:
It appears to be more a wildflower than a garden plant, at least it’s growing wild in the forest, and I haven’t ever seen bulbs for sale (and I’ve looked at a lot of bulbs), but now that I know what it is, whenever I have a garden again, I’ll know what I need!