Crown Imperials, Fritillaria imperialis, I find slightly unreliable in my garden, some clumps flowering only every two or three years. Probably, they are not getting enough sun - they hail from the mountains of Iran. I remember first seeing them in Oxford college gardens when I was a student, and I sent off for some bulbs immediately. The flowers are rather preposterous, pineapple-like on their stalks, and there are big droplets of nectar inside which you can extract with your finger.

The yellow form, 'Lutea', is good among all the blue flowers of spring, and the orange form, 'Rubra', I have around the peeling orange bark of a paperbark maple, Acer griseum, with an orange berberis nearby. After the deprivations of winter, you are ready for some saturated colour shocks come spring. Z5.

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