Plant of the Week: Fritillaria pallida

The fritillaries are a wonderful group of bulbous plants, mostly of very discreet charm, quite unlike their blowsy cousins, the tulips. The sole exception is F imperialis, the crown imperial, which resembles Elgar’s march of that name. F pallida is a much softer, more delicate creature, more like his Sospiri. It can grow about half a metre tall and has wispy grey leaves and lovely pale straw-yellow nodding flowers which sadly only last a week or so.

I once succeeded in associating it with its Iranian relative, F persica, with its sprays of black bells. But like most fritillaries, these both died in my care. I should be reported to the Fritillary Commission and banned from buying any more bulbs, at least until I retire.