The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Dicentra (Ladies in the Bath, Bleeding Heart)

Dicentra, Ladies in the bath, Bleeding HeartWhen I was growing up I was very tickled by these flowers and always thought they were pretty. I was captivated when my mum carefully picked a flower, turned it upside down and gently pulled the deep pink sides apart to show me the slim white lady with thin white arms, sitting in a bath. The lady looked so white, upright and prim. The archetypal Victorian one that has cast away her parasol and announced that she would like to take a bath.

If you look at my snap of our Dicentra you will see the early flower and the more mature one. The oldest flowers are nearest to the heart of the plant and the petals have opened back over the “bath”. Initially the flower is a small heart with a drop of pink beneath, hence the name Bleeding Heart. You can see one at the end of the branch in the middle of the photograph. The flowers nearest the centre of the plant are the ones to choose if you want to observe the lady in the bath in all her slim-armed glory.

I’ve not been lucky with Dicentra in the cottage garden. I think that the main herbaceous border is a bit dry for them but the plant that I put in last year has survived to see another spring. It’s near a small box hedge that I planted last May. As I watered the hedge I also watered the Dicentra. This must be the answer. The border is sunny and south facing but only for half the day, as shrubs and trees give shade from mid afternoon.

This evening I was tempted to pick some stems for the house but resisted, as it looks so pretty in the border with a backdrop of self seeded Forget Me Nots.

Dicentra flowers in spring and early summer. By mid summer she will have started to fade away but she is the mezzo-soprano of our herbaceous border at the moment.


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