Scilla and the Coming of Spring

IMGP3020Snowdrops. Crocuses. Glory-of-the-Snows. I love these plucky flowers that defy winter and burst through piles of dwindling snow or otherwise weather the cool early spring temperatures in Chicago (especially this spring). But spring truly arrives for me when I see the brilliant violet-blue Scilla blanketing the glacial ridge that looms over Longwood Drive in my childhood neighborhoods of Beverly/Morgan Park on the far south side of Chicago. It feels like that almost overnight the dull yellow grass and muddy flowerbeds come alive with riotous crowds of violet-blue. These cheerful flowers are a ubiquitous presence and, when they appear, I know that the long see-saw battle between the armies of winter and spring is over. Spring has finally vanquished the often dark, depressing, cold days of winter and my sometimes-gloomy moods—at least for a time.

When I first glimpse these violet-blue flowers it’s almost as if I had only been able to see in black and white during the cold winter months and my sight has been restored. I usually find an excuse to leave my mom’s house during a visit and walk below the ridge (sometimes with my young son, but often alone), marveling at the wash of violet-blue, taking a photo or two, and probably lingering long enough on the sidewalk in front of the big Beverly mansions to worry the occupants a bit. Don’t worry, I’m just here for your flowers.

IMG_2027One of my favorite spots to view the flowers is at the Givins’ Irish Castle at 103rd and Longwood. The medieval-looking, three-story castle was built from limestone quarried near Joliet in 1886–87. It looms over the gently sloping green grass and violet-blue and white wash of Scilla and Alyssum (another spring favorite) like a proud old man who has seen a lot in his lifetime and had many adventures, but is content to just rest and watch the world go by. Scilla is native to the woodlands, subalpine meadows, and seashores of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and, as you contemplate the castle, grass, and flowers, it’s easy to feel as if you’re in Ireland or another far-flung locale. (Oddly enough, the hills below the castle are not covered in Scilla this spring. Maybe in a few more weeks.)

IMGP3025Each spring, the Scilla spread their beauty further in all directions, and I dream of entire neighborhoods and then the entire city swathed in violet-blue flowers that might make others as happy as I am at that moment. Studies show that nature has a calming effect on humans. I’m tempted to dig up a few of the delicate bulbs and help nature spread the word. But I learned long ago what a mess humans make when they try to control nature, so I let the violet-blue blossoms discover their own path. (And in some circles, Scilla is considered invasive, but that’s another discussion.)

IMGP3016Spring is here—and summer is not far behind. Things can only get better in the natural world from now on. Multicolored bursts of flowers are just weeks away. The trees will grow heavy with leaves. The grass will become thick and deep green. The songbirds will return. People will till the soil, plant seeds, and dream of monster tomatoes and succulent peppers. On Memorial Day weekend in Beverly/Morgan Park, some homes will be bedecked with commemorative bunting, and we’ll gather for a parade and foot races. And in the weeks following, we’ll celebrate 4th of July and the Beverly Hills Cycling Classic. The days will gradually lengthen, people will linger on their patios and front porches with old friends, and children will play outdoors until the stars emerge and the night is lit by fireflies.

Whether you’re a fan of vivid violet-blue Scilla or some other spring flower, I hope you have a favorite that tells you winter is over, spring is in the air, and the joys of summer are on the way.

Copyright (text/photos) Andrew Morkes



13 thoughts on “Scilla and the Coming of Spring

  1. Beautifully worded ode to early Spring flowers and what they tell us. Just before I read your blog, I retrieved the Sunday papers from the driveway and stopped for a moment to breathe in the warmer, sunny day we have given to us today to enjoy. What a treat – both the day and your toast to Spring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Kathy. Glad you like the post. This weekend has really been the first spring-like weekend we’ve had in Chicagoland this year, and i agree that it was nice to savor.


  2. How excellent that it naturalizes. It is only grown in pots here, but does not survive for long in the ground. I do not think that it needs much chill in winter, but I really do not know.

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    1. Interesting about it only being grown in pots where you live. I know that scilla is considered an invasive by some, but it is certainly beautiful amidst the yellow/brown grass and flowerless flowerbeds of early spring in Chicago.

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      1. It is not so much that we grow it only in pots. We just buy them in pots from nurseries and in supermarkets, like blooming kalanchoe or other blooming potted plants. Most of us discard them after bloom. I planted mine in the ground, but then moved afterward, so I do not know what happened to them. I have never seen them regenerate. That is unfortunately common for many bulbs that need more chill than they get here.

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      2. Interesting. I didn’t really understand the science behind scilla and other bulbs until you explained it. I have lived in or had family in Beverly for 50 years, and it’s amazing how far the scilla has spread throught the neighborhood in all these years. I would assume that they probably benefit by being part of some microclimate on the ridge (which is rare in Chicago).

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      3. Yes, Beverly is in Chicago at the far south edge of the city. It is a leafy wooded neighborhood with 150-year-old homes and one of the few places with actual hills in flat Chicago. Beverly is actually called “Beverly Hills,” and we joke that it’s the other Beverly Hills in the U.S. …I checked out a few of your columns at the Canyon News site; nice work!

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      4. Thank you.
        What is the primary Beverly Hills that yours is second to? I thought that ours was second, but never thought of it as being third or fourth. It was named after another town somewhere else. I thought it was in Connecticut, but it could have been the one in Chicago for all I know. The name is not as old as the town. It used to be La Rinconada de los Rodeos de las Aquas. Like so many of the Mexican names, it was way to long.


      5. I was thinking your Beverly Hills, the most famous one. I wasn’t aware that there were other well-known ones. And, I’m sure no one outside Chicago knows about our Bevery Hills.


  3. The Beverly that Beverly Hills in Los Angeles County is named after is actually a farm in Massachusetts, not Connecticut. There are also Beverly Hills in Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and there may be more. It could be a popular name like Springfield. Many names in California came from other places. There are three places named after Chicago that I know of, New Chicago in Amador County, Port Chicago in Contra Costa County, and the Old New Chicago that is now known as Alviso in Santa Clara County. My ancestor’s foundry was there. The streets are named after those in Downtown Chicago.

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