Garden Design

Dicentra spectabilis

Dicentra spectabilis

As the early spring colour of snowdrops, daffodils and crocuses comes to an end it is time for the early-flowering perennials to take over. One such favourite is Dicentra spectabilis, also known by many romantic names such as bleeding heart, lady’s locket and lady in the bath that describe the flower characteristics. Individual flowers are heart-shaped and if turned upright and the two pink halves are pulled apart, a white ‘lady’ pops up between them.

Dicentra spectabilisIn their native conditions dicentra grow in moist soil in woodland and are ideal for similar situations here, enjoying a moist, semi-shaded site with dappled shade or a north- or east-facing wall being ideal. They are happy in any good garden soil providing it is not too heavy and best results are achieved with the addition of leaf mould or other humus mulch in autumn.

Although their foliage and flowers look delicate they are actually very tough plants being hardy to -20°C and have no pest or disease problems. Plants can occasionally be damaged by late-spring frosts but if cut back will quickly regrow and flower.

From a design point of view their only fault might be that once the plant has finished flowering the leaves die back leaving an empty space in the border, but with a lengthy flowering period often lasting from April to June this can be overlooked. With careful planning the gap can be filled with plants that come into leaf relatively late in the season; small hostas and ferns such as Athyrium filix-femina and Dryopteris filix-mas that enjoy the same growing conditions will quickly fill the space.

Any plant that looks elegant, will grow in shade but is as ‘tough as old boots’ has to be a valuable addition to any garden.

National Plant Collection:
Mr R Brook,
Boundary Cottage,
Seaton Ross,
Tel: 01759 319156.
Visits by appointment.

© Sharon Brown 5th April March 2008

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