Perhaps the most popular of all scillas, its mid-green foliage, dark purple stems and deep violet blue, bell-shaped flowers up to 4cm (11/2in) wide make a winning combination. With up to five flowers hanging elegantly from the one-sided flower head, it’s delightful with white or pink hellebores and is happy almost anywhere that is not hot and dry in summer. 8.5cm (31/2in).
This indispensible little bulb is one of the best of all early bulbs. Starting to flower around mid-January and lasting as long as two months, unusually the first flowers open as soon as it appears above ground and then more flowers open as the stem stretches. Each starry 2.5cm (1in) flower is ice-blue with a darker stripe through each petal. Best in partial shade. 15cm (6in)
Flowering in February and early March, the slightly pink-tinted buds open to rich violet blue, or sometimes brighter blue, star-shaped flowers usually with a white mark at the base of each petal. There are three to five, or sometimes as many as 10 flowers on each stem. Best in humus-rich soil in partial shade where it spreads steadily, it dislikes harsh summer drought. 10cm (4in).
A 'grape hyacinth' in a slightly different style, with one broad greyish leaf and a delightful two-tone flower head. At the top is a rather open cluster of about a dozen pretty, pale blue, sterile flowers. Lower down are about three times as many fertile flowers in purple turning to smoky-black at the tips. Self sows in sun or partial shade when happy, but dislikes hot dry summers.15cm (6in).
An even paler cultivar, flowering through April, the fragrant flower head is packed with up to 90 urn-shaped white sterile and blue fertile flowers that are white at the tip. Originally called ‘Baby’s Breath’, it now commemorates Jenny Robinson who found the plant on Cyprus around 1970. Happy in the open or in partial shade. 20cm (8in).
Paler in colour than many grape hyacinths, the flowers of M. azureum are a lovely, soft sky-blue. With up to 50 flowers crowding the top of the stem, those in bud stay very tight and those that have opened below flare prettily. Starts to flower in early April. Happy in sun or partial shade but dislikes summer drought. 10cm (4in).
The cultivar ‘Saffier’ starts to bloom as Muscari ‘Christmas Pearl’ is coming to an end and then continues in bloom until early or mid-May. ‘Saffier’ is unusual in that the violet-blue flowers with their green tips never quite open completely and never set seed – which accounts for the unusually long season. Vigorous, and happy in the open and in partial shade. 20cm (8in).
A very early form of this familiar grape hyacinth, coming into flower in February outside, and lasting until early April. In a pot in a cold greenhouse it should flower at Christmas. Each flower head is crowded with up to 60 fragrant flowers which open a slightly greenish blue but mature to violet blue. Just one drawback - the leaves emerge in autumn and look tatty by flowering time. 20cm (8in).
Earlier in flower than C. luciliae, more genuinely blue in colour and without a white eye, C. sardensis also has longer stems but they tend to be less upright and more arching. Each 2.5cm (1in) flower is more or less bell-shaped and tends to face outwards rather than upwards. Rich violet-blue, the flowers have small, rather indistinct, bright white eyes. Best in partial shade. 12.5cm (5in)
The largest flowered of Chionodoxa, each flower measures 3.5cm (11/ 4 in) across, and although there are usually only two or three flowers on each stem they create quite an impact as the flowers face upwards, and are relatively large. Each rather flat, pale-blue flower has lavender overtones and shades to white in the centre. Flowers in April, best in partial shade. 10cm (4in).