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Bleeding hearts, Bathing ladies or Dutchman's breeches?

  • Bleeding hearts, Bathing ladies or Dutchman's breeches?
  • Bleeding hearts, Bathing ladies or Dutchman's breeches?

Introduced to UK gardens from China in 1846 by the famous Scottish plant collector and botanist, Robert Fortune, this jewel-like perennial brightens up shady corners with its graceful habit and unusually shaped flowers.

The most popular common name for this plant is 'Bleeding Heart' but it can also be said to resemble a lady in her bath (if you hold the flower upside down and pull the stamen upwards) or 'Dutchman's Breeches' which was another name for knickerbockers which you can see, if you imagine the two outer petals as two legs.

There is also a Japanese story in which an amorous young man tries to win the love of a lady by giving her two rabbits (the first two petals of the flower), a pair of slippers (which are the next two petals of the flower laid on their back), and finally a pair of earrings (which are the last two petals of the flower laid on their sides). She callously rejected his attentions and, finally, heart-broken, he pierced his heart with his sword (the middle part if the flower), which caused the bleeding heart.

As a plant, it likes moist, humus-rich soil so it works perfectly in a woodland garden as long as it isn't planted in the dry soil right next to a tree. Carefully divide the fibrous roots in summer when the leaves have died down, or take root cuttings in winter.

My photos show the cultivar 'Alba' which is pure white and said to be more robust than the pink-and-white type.

Synonymous with Lamprocapnos spectabilis.

Comments (1)

  1. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    They have to be one of the most unusual and distinctive blooms, both in their shape and how they string out along the stem. No wonder the common names are so evocative!


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