We are transformed through Christ’s love and given the opportunity of new life in him. In June we honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, recognizing his willingness to endure persecution and the passion of the Cross for the sake of all. It is during this month that we give our hearts to him in return.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was a localized and private practice when it began in the eleventh century. But after the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1675 it became universal. We honor the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the first Friday of June.
In giving our heart to him many were, and are still persecuted. In the initial growth of Christianity the campaign to exterminate followers had an adverse affect. The familiar quote by Tertullian gave words to the heart of Jesus’ followers:
We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed.
In the language of flowers, the Checkered Fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris, represents persecution, and when you see the nodding dark blood-red flower its moniker seems well suited. A spring flowering bulb, it can represent in your garden the persecution that revealed the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the many men and women martyred for our faith.
Fritillaria meleagris, aka checkered lily, is a perennial that is native to flood plains in Europe where it is often seen growing in large colonies in early spring. Plants are somewhat dainty in appearance, featuring solitary drooping, 2” long, bell-shaped flowers that are checkered and veined with reddish-brown, solid purple, or white and gray atop slender stems growing 12-15” tall. Linear, lance-shaped, grass-like green leaves are widely spaced on the stems. In the right environment, it will live long and naturalize well.[i]
Easy to grow in organically rich well drained soil, needs average consistent moisture especially during growing season.
Grow in full sun to part shade—though it prefers sun-dappled or high, open shade.
Plant bulbs in clusters by digging an area 3” deep and randomly placing bulbs 3-4” apart.
Foliage should be allowed to die back naturally—usually done by late spring—as the bulbs go dormant. Companion planting is recommended to cover the bare spot left behind. Because of its shallow depth, I recommend leaving the yellowed leaves as markers and planting annuals in between.
It has no serious disease or insect problems.
USDA Hardiness Zone 3-8.
The genus name comes from the Latin word fritillus meaning ‘dice box’, referencing the checkerboard pattern on the petals. It also evokes the Bible verse of dice that were cast for Jesus’ garment.
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