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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ode to Bleeding Hearts

Happy Valentine's Day!

Ok, I doubt this is an original blogger topic. I'm guessing that many of you garden bloggers out there will be posting some kind of photo with Bleeding Hearts in them.

First of all, the botanical name for bleeding hearts is Dicentra. There is Dicentra spectablis which I grow in pink and white and the smaller, more delicate Dicentra eximia which I have in white and probably red (somewhere). Today I'll break my rule about using botanical names since the nickname fits so perfectly here.This photo is a lousy shot of some foliage (daylily perhaps?) and the lovely blue/green cut leaf of Dicentra eximia. I don't know if I still have red bleeding hearts in the garden, I can't wait to find out!

When my Dad was alive he loved to be outdoors and putter around his garden although nobody would call him an "experienced" gardener. Dad had the largest clump ever of these little bleeding hearts in full sun. The only thing Dad added to the soil was his grass clippings and you should have seen the worms he had (they were like hot dogs).

For years in my own garden I had a monster clump of Dicentra spectablis (the larger bleeding heart) growing in full sun along my gravel driveway. The spot was the lowest in our property so it always got the most moisture and it was amended every year with manure. I finally dug that clump out and divided it. It would stop you in your tracks when it bloomed but because it was so large it created a huge ugly spot in mid summer.

I really had no intention of following the herd and writing about bleeding hearts today but something happened that changed my mind. Last night I was cruising by here when I stopped suddenly. My daughter Lauren, who is away at college in Pennsylvania actually left me a message on my Valentine's Day Pink posting. Not only did she leave a message but it was gardening related! I tell you, the earth almost moved under my feet when I saw that :-) Anyway, Lauren loves bleeding hearts, we've always grown huge clumps here so this Valentine's day I dedicate my bleeding heart post to her and of course my husband Don who puts up with all my idiosyncrasies and my younger daughter Emily.

The white bleeding hearts grow quite happily here too. Most fortuitous for me, they also self sow (although not as readily as the pink variety). In early spring when they first break through the soil the white variety has a much lighter green foliage than the pink bleeding hearts have. It's easy to differentiate the two and know in advance what color the seedling will become. I don't always try to save the pink seedlings but I separate out every white seedling that I can find. Come Mother's Day weekend when we hold our plant sale, these bleeding hearts sell out before we even officially open the door.

To answer Lauren's question, I did not include a photo of bleeding hearts in my pink posting only because I don't have one that I like! For all the photos I do have of them, not one of them is very well composed (as you are probably now noticing).

This little white bleeding heart with the pink tip showed up one year in a bed where I thought I only had a red variety. For many years I thought it was a unique seedling and I've been trying to increase it. Just this year I saw images online that show the same traits so now I think maybe it's a plant I just forgot I planted there. Bet that never happens to the rest of you :-)

My personal experience in growing these bleedings hearts is that they have an amazingly long bloom season for a perennial. As I mentioned earlier in this post, the larger varieties will die back in the summer heat and leave an awful hole behind which you need to disguise with later growing perennials. The eximia variety though does not lose it's foliage in the summer and I think it would actually prefer more sun and more compost than I've given it in the past. We'll see if I remember to move it around this year and do some experimentation.

Thursday's are my day to volunteer up at our high school so I'll sign off now. I wish all of you a heart filled Valentine's Day.

With love,


Cottage Magpie said...

Love your bleeding hearts pictures! We don't care that everyone is doing it. We just love them anyway, and your pictures are lovely. In fact, I just love your blog all over the place. I'm going to add you to my blogroll later today. Your pink post is lovely, too, thanks for joining in the fun!
~Angela :-)

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

I love the bleeding hearts and wish I could grow them. Our heat crispy fries them. So for me, there cannot be too many bleeding hearts.

Pam/Digging said...

Since I don't have any bleeding hearts to share (do they even grow in Austin?), I'm happy to view them here. Great pics, by the way.

Anonymous said...

I've tried them twice and my current gardens are too dry. But when I get moved, I'm creating a place for them. I enjoyed reading the post. And don't you just love it when your kids check in. I love my children to pieces. I really feel for ya with her being away. I loved raising my children.

Melanie Vassallo said...

Well, I guess I owe my daughter Lauren a big hug and Thanks for getting me to post on bleeding hearts. Thanks to all of you for the kind comments :-)

Last night my younger daughter Emily showed me photos she had on her profile, they were lovely shots of Bleeding hearts! She told me I only had to ask her if I needed good photos! Guess there's something about girls and those bleeding hearts. I can't tell you how many times we've picked a single heart and held it in our hands. They are like perfect little jewels.