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Bleeding Heart

The genus Dicentra, from the Greek dis, "twice," and centron, "spur," meaning "twice-spurred," in reference to the flower shape, is a wonderful plant for shade gardens.

Consisting of around 20 species of annuals and perennials from North America and Asia, Dicentra belongs in the poppy family - though you'd never know it by comparison! The foliage, ferny and usually finely-cut, disappears with winter but is often one of the first to surface in spring. Two of the three plants I brought with me are showing foliage; I'm hoping the third is still alive and kicking. I couldn't do without these wonderful and hardy specimens; they are perfect for underplanting Rhodies with Corydalis, Hostas, Tricyrtis and Epimeduim.

I have in my garden Dicentra formosa 'Margery Fish', a cultivar from England. This is a vigorous plant which possesses finely textured, slate-blue foliage and masses of pure white flowers in early spring. Beautifully integrated with intense spring hues, from Ajuga, Pulmonaria and Primula.
dicentraformosaMajoryFish[1].jpg

D. formosana 'Bacchanal', a perennial native to the Pacific Northwest area with ferny, gray-green foliage and panicles of up to 30 pinkish red flowers.
dicentra formosa bacchanal.jpg

And D. spectabilis 'Alba', a perennial from Japan, northeastern China and Russia’s far east. This is a vigorous grower with leaves coarsely divided and strongly upright flower stems that can reach 4’ carrying up to 15 large pure white heart-shaped flowers with slightly protruding white inner petals.
dicentra spectabilis alba2.jpg

Close-up ~ dicentra alba closeup.jpg

Dicentra formosana, aka Pacific Bleeding Heart, Wild Bleeding Heart, and Western Bleeding Heart exceeds the Eastern Bleeding Heart D. eximia for floriferousness (my own word :-), and dramatic impact, though both are extremely lovely shade perennials.
dicentra formosa.jpg

You can see why they are called bleeding hearts !
dicentra bleeding hearts.jpg

D. formosana 'Quicksilver' underplanted with Pulmonaria ~
dicentra formosa quicksilver HW.jpg

Dicentra eximia or Fringed Bleeding Heart, aka Wild Bleeding Heart, or Eastern Bleeding Heart, blooms spring through autumn. It is as beautiful in September as it is in April, with even a few flowers lingering in October. For lasting-power of its lady-locket flowers, it is an essential perennial for temperate gardens.
dicentra exima ker - wild.jpg

'Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, & then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird's Nest; & then everybody laughed again; & then I went to bed.'

-A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas

2005 was a year with a lot of upheaval for us; consequently, I didn't keep up with some of the fabulous new plant offerings. Here is one with golden foliage that I'll get when the price comes down (currently about $18!), D. spectabilis 'Gold Heart'.
dicentra spectabilis gold heart3.jpg

Dicentra cucullaria, or Dutchman's Breeches, is another North American perennial. This plant can cause some skin irritation, so handle accordingly.
dicentra cucullaria 3.jpg

D. Chrysantha, common name 'Golden Eardrops' is often found on burns, disturbed places, and dry slopes below 5000' in chaparral and woodland. It is used as a floral essential oil - here are it's reputed beneficial qualities:
"Contacting one's childhood experience as a source of emotional well-being; releasing painful memories from the past. Patterns of imbalance: Suppressed toxic memories of childhood; feelings of pain."zip[1].png
dicentra chrysantha golden eardrops.jpg

Another fairly new cultivar, D. x perigrina 'King of Hearts' ~
dicentra x King of Hearts.jpg

Dicentra macranthis is an exceedingly rare plant in cultivation, and reportedly difficult to grow. Spreading rhizomes produce yellow stems sporting handsome, ferny fronds to 2 ft. from which appear enormous, drooping 2'-3' creamy yellow flowers in abundance in late spring. An extraordinary plant for moist soil in shade with protection from wind.
dicentra macranthis HW.jpg

Dicentra lichiangensis is a remarkable climbing species found in the mountain forests of Northern India. With its own distinctly bronzy tinted foliage born on bright reddish tendrilled stems, it bears generous clusters of orange-suffused yellow locket-flowers produced through the summer into autumn, followed by distinct decorative inflated reddish beaked seed pods. Easily grown in well drained fertile soil in sun or part shade.
Dicentra lichiangensis.jpg

Beautiful dicentra ~
dicentra shade garden.jpg

Sojourner mentioned bleeding heart vine, with which I wasn't familiar. Here is is, Dicentra scandens, or yellow bleeding heart vine.
Clusters of clear canary-yellow 1" bleeding hearts adorn this vigorous vine all summer and into autumn. Climbing to 10' by the tendrils, it's beautiful on a trellis or scrambling up through branches of a small tree. Plant where roots will be shaded; it can take morning sun in hotter areas.
dicentra scandens3.jpg

Another plant known as Bleeding Heart Vine is not Dicentra at all but a completely different genus, Clerodendron thomsoniae, a tropical plant from West Africa!
dicentra bleeding heart vine.jpg

A bug's-eye view ~
dicentra.jpg


Posted by floranista on Apr 20, 2006 4:16 am

12 comments, latest by James C. Oconnell at 1:17 pm 12/2

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