|Dicentra formosa alba
I had just been given permission to hold the National Dicentra collection. I had all of five plants! I received a letter from a lady called Joyce Fussey. She was a keen hardy planter and she had raised a white dicentra from seed. She had no memory of where the seed had come from. One of many seed distribution schemes. Did I think the dicentra was worthy of wider distribution? Her son drove her over from Goathland. Joyce does not drive.
Joyce is a gifted authoress. She used to write her books in the cold North Yorkshire winter and tended her garden all the year round. She writes of her life on a small farm which nestles at the lip of a deep valley. She tells me that she has experienced frost in every single month of the year, Fortunately not in the same one! Her books are delightful hilarious accounts of farm life and tales of amusing and sometimes riotous incidents in her garden.
I saw one of her old meadows in full bloom. Never having been treated with a herbicide, it was a riot of wild flowers. It was the most beautiful display I have ever seen.
You just might have seen parts of her garden! The popular TV series ‘Heartbeat’ was filmed in the area, her garden was sometimes used as a set.
Her books are delightful. They have wonderful titles such as ‘Milk my ewes and weep’, ‘Cows in the corn’ and ‘Cats in the coffee’. Her books never made ‘the big-time’. A different shake of life’s dice and she would have had a James Heriot acclaim. Joyce is not rich in possessions but she is in her life. Originally without mains electricity she has taken delight in her garden and simple country matters. She tells me of the particular thrill she still gets when one of her admirers has sought her out and called. She has had visitors from all over the world. I can’t help thinking that had she been a few years younger she would have had a very fine blog!
|Dicentra formosa alba
I planted it my garden, my expanding collection. It was a very fine form of Dicentra formosa alba. It perhaps had larger flowers than the type, perhaps it flowered a little longer because it did not readily self seed. I gave it my ill-informed approval. Joyce wrote to nurseryman Adrian Bloom. He came north to see it, he liked it. He liked it even more when I informed him that my colleague Philip Orton had thousands of micro-propagated plants in his lab at Askham Bryan College. I think I glimpsed a gleam in his eye! Adrian undertook to undertake the registration and promotion of this fine plant for sale throughout Europe.
I wanted to call the dicentra ‘Joyce Fussey’, she deserved the accolade and it would promote her name. Adrian said “with that name it won’t sell”. It was to be called ‘Avalanche’, you can just sense the rush of the brilliant white flowers. It was to be launched at Chelsea. Joyce, Philip and myself were invited to the celebrity day. My two friends had a wonderful time and the dicentra was featured on the BBC. Much to my regret, this nitwit here, elected to remain at college to give his lectures. As if the poor students wanted to hear them!
And so ‘Snowflakes’ was born! Snowflakes! what about ‘Avalanche’? Think about it, to the British it sounds exciting, to the rest of the world it’s image is one of tragedy and death.
The rise and fall of Dicentra ‘Snowflakes’
It appeared in Bressingham Gardens catalogue. It graced thousands of gardens. It was available for some years and generally offered in the trade. It disappeared! I know no one who has it now. I might have lost it myself! For some reason it did not have the constitution. Perhaps it had mutated in micro-propagation to give a weak ‘sport’. Perhaps it was susceptable to a virus. I don’t know.
Three years ago I called on Joyce and she retrieved a plant from under an old hedge and gave me some of the original none micro-propagated stock. On the same day I bought a plant from Pat Perry’s nursery at Sleights as we went on to Whitby. It was labelled ‘locally bred’.
Shame on me I have lost it again! Many of us lost our best plants in the 2010 winter when we had tried to keep special plants safe and potted them to hold in our unheated greenhouses. It was the worst thing to do. Plants were frozen solid in their pots when they would have survived in the ground. Dare I ask Joyce for some more? I feel another trip to the seaside is due.
|Dicentra ‘Adrian Bloom’. As son of plantsman Alan Bloom, Adrian has a dicentra that bears his name. Dicentras vary slightly in colour depending on season, degree of shade and soil. This is in my opinion the true colour of D. Adrian Bloom.
Adrian jovially declared that Dicentra “Adrian Bloom’ did not grow well in his garden!
But this similar darker red cultivar ‘Bacchanal’ does!
Difference between Dicentra formosa and Dicentra eximia
The correct name of Joyce’s White dicentra was Dicentra formosa alba ‘Snowflakes’ All similar white dicentras sold in the UK are also Dicentra formosa alba. If they are labelled Dicentra eximia alba they are almost certainly named wrong!
The flowers of D.eximia and ‘D.formosa’ are completely different. The picture below shows the long elegant shape of D.eximia. All the other pictures in this post shows the short dumpy flowers typical of D.formosa.
This is the flower of Dicentra eximia. Anyone wanting to grow genuine (pink) Dicentra eximia can buy seed from Chilterns.
A typical Dicentra formosa flower
Dicentra eximia alba does exist in the USA - pictures can be seen on the net. Examine the shape of the flower carefully. You will find a huge array of white dicentra, some incorrectly named.
In google images I find my own picture of Dicentra formosa oregana ‘Pearl Drops’ under the search-term of Dicentra eximia alba!
|Dicentra formosa has these characteristic underground rhizomes. Dicentra eximia does not.
|Another white dicentra. Dicentra formosa ‘Aurora’
My previous dicentra posts