Let’s go on a botanical vacation
Bob Wallis is the chairman of The Fritillaria Group in the UK. He has, together with his wife, grown and travelled the world to see fritillaries for over 50 years. In my interview with him he shared
- how he first discovered his passion for fritillaries
- how he learned about growing them and about their native habitats
- how his holiday planing develops into research projects
- stories from places around the Northern hemisphere he has travelled to
- tips for those who want to travel to remote locations to find their favourite plants
- how books written 100 years ago can still help today localizing plants in the wild
- which fritillaries are easy to grow if you want to start your own fritillaria garden
Accompanying to this episode you will find two short videos below with Bob. One of the video is on the Fritillaria genus and the second is a travel to an alpine area in Anatolia with lots of pictures of the alpine landscape and its native fritillaries. Enjoy the podcast here below and the videos.
A passion for fritillaries
Bob Wallis holds a PhD in biochemistry and worked as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry, in biotechnology and for the government in relation to these areas. Together with his wife, who is a botanist by training, they early discovered their interest in growing bulbs, and especially fritillaria. They developed that interest into a life-long passion by growing fritillaries and other bulbs in their garden in Wales, travelling the world to see fritillaries in their native habitats, being active members of the Fritillaria Group and now even working on a book on the fritillaria genus. In the video below Bob describes the fritillaria genus and how it is divided into subgenera.
When holiday planing becomes a research project
Bob and his wife have travelled to many places in the world to see fritillaries, which are only growing in the Northern hemisphere. Among other places they have been to France, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Finding fritillaries in remote locations in countries with little infrastructure for foreign visitors needs lots of preparation. Bob shares in his interview tips on what to look out for. He uses old books on the Flora of the country of destination together with physical maps, google maps and GPS. His holiday preparation demands lots of research. Not a problem for the retired researcher.
Some botanical travels to see Fritillaria in the wild can become pretty adventurous. In this episode Bob tells a story where he was searching for finding the bright yellow Fritillaria aurea at the Turkish border with Iran and Irak some years back. He advices to always watch out for road signs and to follow military instructions, even when the botanical curiosity would tell you otherwise. Some knowledge of the country’s language and being accompanied by a local guide when travelling to less touristic places is another recommendation Bob gives. Last but not least, always check travel recommendations given by your home country’s government before buying your tickets.
Spoilt for choice
For the fritillaria newbie going on his or her first botanical holiday Bob has three suggestions. Firstly, the Taurus mountains close to Antalya in Turkey. Secondly, island-hopping in Greece (Evia, Argolidas) and thirdly the South-West of Turkey (peninsula westwards of Marmaris). Fritillaria flowers in these locations usually in the last half of May. So time your holidays right. Being a fritillaria gardener himself has asked for compromises in some ways. Fritillaries flower for a period of about two weeks, whether in a garden in Wales, on a meadow in Uppsala or on a mountain in Turkey. That makes it a matter of choices whether he wants to enjoy his own garden in bloom or travel to see the beautiful plants flowering in their native habitats. Despite the short flowering time, there is still enough to do in Bob’s garden year around. Especially in his greenhouse where the majority of his fritillaries grow in pots. While dormant in the summer, the bulbs need some care and attention throughout the rest of the year.
The 5-Frit mountain in Anatolia
In the video below Bob takes us on a travel to Anatolia. He shows pictures from a mountain that he and his fellow fritillaria-enthusiasts have classified as a “5 Frit mountain”, a mountain with 5 different Fritillaria species. Have a look and enjoy the views and the beautiful plants living on this rocky terrain.
Starting your own Fritillaria garden
After having seen all these beautiful plants, I got curious to know which Fritillaria species would easily thrive in a garden. Bob recommended Fritillaria meleagris, which is very easy to grow. You can learn more about it in our two previous podcast episodes with Håkan Rydin and Katarzyna Roguz. Bob Wallis and his wife have over several years established a F. meleagris meadow in their garden. Bob shares the procedure needed to create one. The rewarding ocean of flowers is certainly worth the years it takes to establish it. Furthermore, Fritillaria camschatcensis is another species he recommends. It should thrive well in Sweden as it loves cold winters, whereas in warmer climates it may not be the best choice. F. camschatcensis is very common in Canada and Alaska as well. Bob’s third suggestion is the tall Fritillaria imperialis. If you have listened to last week’s podcast you may recognize it. This is the one that the municipality of Warsaz has planted in the city center and that botanist Katarzyna Roguz is studying in this context. All three species can be found easily in the commerce if you want to try them out.
If you would like to get seeds of rarer species, you can get in touch with the Fritillaria Group where regular seed exchange takes place. The group and its website and Facebook page are also great places to get in touch with other fritillaria enthusiasts, to attend events, garden visits and learn more.