Native to mountain areas in Turkey and western Iran, these are an absoutely wonderful bulb to plant in a shady area. It is thought they were first introduced into the UK in 1605, planted in the London garden of James Nasmyth, surgeon to King James I.
Large, brightly coloured clusters of flowers emerge in mid-Spring, and provide a superb contrast to other woodland bulbs which tend to be a little more delicate and reserved.
Hardy and easy to grow, their main requirement is a humus-rich soil which retains some moisture (although not water-logged). Add plenty of organic matter before planting, and if the soil is heavy clay you can also add some washed horticultural grit to improve drainage.
How to plant Fritillaria bulbs:
This is a huge family, and they all have slightly different preferences in terms of soil and sunlight. In general they do best in semi-shaded woodland gardens, in a soil that retains some moisture but which doesn't dry out too quickly.
Crown Imperials - plant 30cm deep. A good idea is plant them on their side, as the top of the bulb always has a hole left by the previous year's flowering stem and this hole can allow water to pool and rot the bulb.