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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Dicentra Spectabilis Alba is Graceful and Elegant’s human nature to remain silent about children who conduct themselves exactly as we wish and to complain incessantly about those who misbehave. It’s the same in gardening. Plants that perform as expected without fuss are appreciated without comment. Yet, we can never stop complaining about problem plants until we rid them from our garden.

Similar to children who misbehave, problem plants constantly occupy our thoughts and deflect our attention away from other plants that give us no cause for concern. This observation came to mind today, as I was strolling through the flower beds and noticed how the tips of my Dicentra spectabilis Alba [sometimes called white Bleeding Hearts] were emerging from the earth. What an elegant perennial this is – even while nature is partially hiding it from view. Why is it that I never stopped to notice this eye - pleasing gesture of spring? Why have I never shared this beautiful perennial with my readers? Here is a neat, reliable, and graceful plant that is in bloom more often than it is not and it beautifies my part-shade garden without ever complaining. Surely, it deserves an honorable mention! I had been aware of its existence for many years, I never thought to grow white Dicentra simply because it was, um, white. My love for colorful flowers is paramount, so it is understandable that I would not seek out any flowering perennials that were devoid of color. Other than using white Phlox paniculata as an accent and white Hydrangeas for their fluffy texture, white flowering perennials were hard to find in my personal flower beds.

One spring, while my wife and I were driving down from Montreal to visit our children in Boston, we stopped at a rest area. [I make it a point to seek out Vermont facilities because the State offers complementary coffee to its visitors]. There in a picnic ground flowerbed, I saw white Dicentra in bloom for the first time. Wasn’t this supposed to be a part - shade plant? Yet, here it was in a full sun garden with sufficient evidence that later blooming summer plants would soon hide it.

This mature perennial had originally been planted as part of a triangular composition of three, all of which had now grown together to create a massive clump. It was stunning to look at -  it was bride-like in its whiteness, elegance, and sophistication. The gentle arch of its stems, spraying delicately - hanging white heart-shaped flowers, looked like a crafted work of art. There and then I decided to add it to my garden, even if it was a white perennial. By the way, pictures cannot do this plant justice. One has to caress it with the naked eye to truly appreciate its delicateness.

Originally, I planted my white Dicentra in sun just as I had seen it in Vermont. That was a mistake because I gave it full prominence without the opportunity to be later shaded from the heat by summer blooming perennials. In its own inimitable way, it let me know that it could not sustain its growing conditions and went limp. Therfore, I moved it to a part shade garden where, clearly, it is now very happy.

dicentra spectabilis alba white flower farmAlthough I am very excited to see new plant growth in the spring, I have never been effusive in my postings about any emerging perennial, that is, until today when I noticed the tips of Dicentra spectabilis Alba poking out from the earth. The very light green plant buds, only two inches tall, were awash with a white tint that created a visual experience that can only be described as heart – thumping. I knelt down to closely observe the ethereal color story playing out before my eyes and suddenly remembered that it is pleasurable moments like this that might keep me gardening “forever”.

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Reader Comments (5)

I never grew the white one either until I put in two of them last year. I have three of the pink on the north side of my home for several years and they are huge. The white ones I put in the back garden where I can see them from my patio.

I love the lighter color of the foliage and can see that they are beginning to bud. The white ones are more difficult to find maybe that's why people do not plant more of them.


April 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

I have one in my shade garden and I love seeing it bloom in the spring more so than my pink one. There is something so elegant about the white blooms.

April 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLona

A second your good opinion of bleeding hearts. I am a recent fan (last few summers) and have both the common white and pink varieties.

April 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Dicentra is indeed a reliable, elegant winner! When they emerge, I know it's really spring, and they're making their appearance here now, too. Cheers!

April 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPlantPostings

I agree, Allan. The white bleeding heart is a stunning plant. It happily seeds itself around my garden, and I find its foliage doesn't yellow and die back as quickly as the pink variety. Definitely one of the backbones of my spring garden.

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