When Your Swan is an Ugly Duckling

Story by: Lydia Plunk - Photos by: Gene Sasse




Giant Squill
The bulb does not look like the over-achiever it is. Like the Ugly Duckling, Giant White Squill (Urginea maritima) is nothing like the long-necked beauty it will mature to.
The oddity of a humungous bulb doesn't stop traffic in the way that makes a passerby want to open their wallet. But a good image can.  In the language of photography, a few good images pitch to the casual passerby, "Take me home. Sink this baked blob of a bulb into the earth, where your landscape is parched from too much sun: that spot where most plants perish from exposure and thirst. During the hottest part of the year, I will send up spiraled clusters of star-like white blossoms." 

Nan Sterman, horticulturist and author of California Gardening, Volume II confirms, "Urginea maritima is one of my all time favorite bulbs.  All year long, it has nice, strappy leaves.  Come June or July, the leaves turn gold, and the most amazingly tall, mahogany colored spear rises from the center.  The spear is topped in a snow white, pointed column of buds that open from the bottom to the top in sequence.  A mature bulb can be big as a basketball and the flowering spear reach six feet tall or taller.  A field of them in bloom looks like a wonderland!" 

With California in its third year of drought, Nan is even more excited that, "The bulb takes absolutely no water and comes back year after year."
The flowering spikes are popular with better florists as punctuation points in status arrangements. Or dozens gathered in a large vase make an elegant modern statement, showing off how the stems magically twist and turn, almost like the froth of beach waves in not-quite suspended animation.


Jim Threadgill, president of easytogrowbulbs.com made the decision to invest in quality photography upon purchasing a field of Giant White Squill in Fallbrook, CA. If you were in that neighborhood now, you would see over ten thousand squill spectacularly splashing across never-irrigated dirt field. In a moment you are stunned: there are no rodents or deer grazing. Critters find the plants unappetizing. 
Jim had terrific text - but he understands that photos are the hook which stops customers long enough to get them interested in reading the bulb's story. Without images to show this wonder of the horticultural world, the Giant White Squill might remain obscure.
Photography creates desire through instantaneous promise of exotic beauty. This propels those who garden in a Mediterranean climate zone to learn more about the homely bulb which is a most unexpected harbinger of sustainable beauty.
Gene Sasse © 2010 | gene@genesasse.com | 909-941-3993