Alba

White Bleeding Heart


"Come back, true love! Sweet youth, return! --
But time goes on, & will, unheeding,
Though hands will reach, & eyes will yearn,
And the wild days set true hearts bleeding."

-Conrad Aiken
(1889-1973)

   

Dicentra spectabilis 'Alba' has two distinguishing features that set it apart from the regular pink form of the species. The most obvious feature is its white heart-locket flowers, as opposed to the pink of the species. But additionally the leaves are lime-green rather than green. Especially in early Spring as first emerging the leaves are closer in color to the 'Goldheart' cultivar which has startling yellow-green foliage.

Since there is no color to justify calling it "Bleeding," it is occasionally called "White Pantaloons," evoking laundry hung out to dry on a line, instead of heart-shaped lockets. It would be nice if it were possible to repopularize an older name for them, Lady's Lockets.

Alba originated as a natural variant of the species native to Siberia & northern China. Being natural, it will grow true from its seeds. It can easily grow to three feet high & fountaining outward to two feet or wider, but generally stays just a tad smaller than the species.

White Bleedingheart likes moist rich soil, in bright or dappled shade. Although they love our Northwest acidic soils, their actual ideal is neutral to slightly alkaline pH, so can be planted almost anywhere that is cool & moist.

The ferny leaves & blooms occur almost simultaneously at the start of Spring. On Puget Sound it flowers endlessly from April to July. D. spectabilis clumps commonly go dormant in summer, but if it is in a shady spot with persistent moisture, they can retain their spring leaves up until there is a real heatwave. When the weather cools in autumn, 'Alba' has a significant rebloom. It dies back in winter, reappearing quite suddenly in March.

Though beautiful enough to be a focal-point plant, one must bear in mind its weakness at high summer, & its disappearance in winter. If it can share ground with evergreen ferns there will be something attractive in the location year-round.

Two other white bleedinghearts in our gardens have much smaller snowy-white blooms & more easily persist through summer. These are D. formosa 'Aurora' white western bleedingheart, & D. eximia var alba white eastern bleedingheart.

   



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