Bleeding Hearts at Brookside Gardens

28 01 2011

Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spectabilis)—I photographed this plant at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD on a photo trip with my friend Jeff in April 2008. I posted it as part of a collage for my original posting but decided today that it needs its own spotlight!

Something I didn’t know—it’s a member of the poppy family! This hardy perennial grows well in Zones 2-9 and blooms from April through June. It can do well in full sun or partial shade, although I mostly see it thriving in partial shade in woodland gardens. It has been grown for centuries in Korea, China and Japan. German botanist J.G. Gmelin first brought the plant to Russia for the botanical garden where he was employed. In 1947 Robert Fortune brought the plant to Western Europe through a sponsored trip by the Royal Horticulture Society.

I also learned the “bleeding heart story,” which I hadn’t heard before. I found this excerpt on www.veseys.com:

It is said that a prince loved a princess who took no notice of him. To try to get the princess’s attention and prove his love, he brought her exquisite and amazing gifts from far and wide. One day he came across two magical pink bunnies and offered them both to the princess. At this point, the story teller pulls off the two outer pink petals and sets each on it sides to show the animals. The princess was unmoved by the rabbits so, he tried again and presented her with beautiful dangly earrings. The next two inner white petals are separated and held up next to the narrator’s ears for display. Still, the princess paid him no attention. The prince was so distraught over being spurned that he took a dagger and stabbed himself. The remaining centre of the flower is shaped like an outline of a heart with a line down the centre. The heart is held up, the dagger-like line is removed, and the story teller plunges the “knife” through the heart’s centre. The princess, realizing too late that she did love the prince, cried out, “My heart shall bleed for my prince forever more!” and her heart bleeds to this day.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


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Japanese Roof Iris

27 04 2009

The Japanese Roof Iris (Iris tectorum) is native to China. It was first discovered in the 1860s, growing in Japan on thatched roofs, hence the common name. Below is an excerpt from a newsletter article by Gerald Klingaman, former extension horticulturist for the University of Arkansas, Cooperative Extension Service:

This charming little plant became known as the Japanese roof iris because that is where it was first observed by a Russian scientist, Carl Maximowicz (1827-1891). He spent three and a half years botanizing in Japan in the early 1860s and introduced numerous Japanese plants to Europe through his base in St. Petersburg.

In China, apparently the original home of the roof iris where it has been grown since at least seventh century, the plant grows on the ground like any sensible iris. But in Japan, it was found growing on the ridges of their thatched roofs.

Apparently this tradition started in Japan because of a decree by a Japanese emperor during a period of wartime when it became illegal to waste land growing flowers. All available land had to be used for rice or vegetables.

The main reason for growing the plant was not for its flowers, but for a white powder that was made by grinding the roots. The makeup used to create the white faces of the Geisha girls was made from the rhizomes. So, the plants moved from the garden to the roofs where it remained until being “discovered” by science.

This evergreen perennial is hardy to zone 5 and flowers from April to May. The 4-inch wide lavender flowers (‘Alba’ is the white cultivar) bloom for about two weeks. Growing just 12-14 inches tall, the Japanese root iris has a spreading, rhizomatous habit common to most irises. Also known as Wall Iris, the plants grow as well in partial shade as they do in full sun, but they perform best in dappled shade. Great for use in front of a border and in rock gardens, they prefer soil that is high in organic matter. Seeds can be collected in late summer and directly sown into the garden.

I photographed this beautiful flower on a shady walking trail in Garvan Woodland Gardens in Hot Springs, Arkansas last week. Garvan Woodland Gardens is a 210-acre wooded peninsula on Lake Hamilton. The Gardens were the vision of founder and benefactress, Verna Cook Garvan, who donated her property under a trust agreement to the University of Arkansas School of Architecture in 1985.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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