When my friend Maria presented me with a small bag of Muscari bulbs as a gift years ago, I had no idea that that would be the start of a beautiful relationship. My first thought was, “How cute. Grape hyacinths — even the name sounds petite and demure.” Nothing, though, could be farther from the truth.
Muscari is a wicked, wicked temptress of a plant — small in size but gi-normous in attitude. That small bag of 10 bulbs has multiplied and naturalized easily, making itself at home in nearly every bed. I don’t even remember planting bulbs in certain locations — and now the plants are overwhelming long-established perennials. But I don’t care — because I’m truly, madly, and deeply captivated with Muscari.
That thought occurred to me the other day when my plan was to get down and dirty with elephant ears and I instead found myself in the heart of a Fellini film. I’m a member of the paparazzi, completely enamored with Muscari, a seductive garden siren swathed in violet. From sunrise to sunset, Muscari begs to be photographed.
Part of my attraction is the name itself. Some plant names demand to be repeated over and over again — softly whispered, perhaps? — because, well, they’re fun to say. Portulaca is one, and now there is Muscari. Italian, it seems, makes everything sound better. I mean, would you ever want to plant a bed of anything if it was called — I don’t know — Voldemort?
More than anything, it’s the color that grabs my attention. I know there are white varieties and various shades of blue, but it’s the deep color that holds me. Bathed in light or cloaked in shade, the blue is sometimes as blue as the Aegean Sea, sometimes more cobalt-colored, and sometimes purple. With each subtle change in the light of day, Muscari becomes more appealing.
Then there are the flowers themselves. Each Muscari stalk resembles a Dr. Seuss-inspired tree. On closer inspection, the pearl-like blooms look like juicy, puckered blueberries — or scandalous blue-dyed pantaloons. And when this close, you can’t help but smell the sweetly perfumed scent. Yes, Muscari knows all about living la dolce vita.
All good things must come to an end. As spring progresses toward summer, my Muscari will withdraw from the garden and go into hiding and I will once again have to say, “Arrivederci, Muscari. Arrivederci.”