I remember how thrilled I was the first time spotted this flower on a farm and then again in a wasteland spot beside a canal. The flowers with their incandescent blue were terribly arresting. I now grow one in my own garden.
Scilla peruviana from the liliaceae family. This bulb has a very interesting history, see below. Despite its peruvian-sounding name, it isn’t from Peru but from the Meditteranean, Spain and was named because it arrived in England on board a ship called the Peru. It is also called the Cuban lily but it didn’t originate from Cuba either, although it did naturalize there so well, the name stuck.
An interesting and beautiful bulb, whose history and origin have long been clouded by the happenstance of its introduction in the England. The story goes that it arrived in that country via a ship named The Peru. This freighter had picked up the bulbs in Spain, where it occurs naturally, but somehow this fact was lost during the naming by Linnaeus.
Since that time, even in its homeland, it has come to be confused as a species thought to be native to South America (botanists are smart and reasonable, right?). The favorite common name of Cuban Lily seems to come from the fact that it is naturalized there, as it is in many countries, though it is generally not considered invasive.
Of the easiest culture, this bulb only asks for good drainage and preferable a not-too-rich soil. It is perfectly attuned to a mediterranean climate, resprouting from a dry bulb with the fall rains and producing its handsome flowers in spring (March-May). The densely packed, corymbose head last for a considerable time, often with hundreds of flowers opening over time. Usually a deep blue color, there is know to be some variation in its intensity. In fact, a pure white form exists and can occur sponateously.
This author knew of a large, old, garden population in California where this had happened, leading to the blue and white forms to evenutally crossing and producing various intermediate forms. The pistil and anthers are generally blue in the blue form and green in the white. This hybrid swarm exhibited various combinations of these characters, even with some white flowers bearing dark blue pistils! Clearly there is some latitude here for selection and breeding. In the wild, there is apparently considerable variation as well.
Often found grown as a florist pot plant, the long-lasting flowers and easy culture making it a good choice for this use. Grown as an indoor plant in colder climates, or with year round rains, it is often virtually evergreen and does not flower reliably. It has clearly adapted to its native mediterranean climate and grows best under those conditions.