'Blackberry Wine' Corydalis

"I'm bent but not broken
All I need is some rest
And a bottle of your very best
Blackberry wine."

-Gordon Lightfood


A 2003 introduction, for several weeks I resisted adding this patented hybrid cultivar of Corydalis flexuosa to the garden because I had blue-flowering varieties, & 'Blackberry Wine' originally struck me as taking a plant with a very unusual deep transluscent blue coloration, & turning it into a more commonplace shade of purple. But the more often I saw it the more I liked it, & any new color for the guppy-shaped flowers was not something I was going to be long able to resist.

It blooms May through July. In zone 8 it does not necessarily die back in summer, but may stop blooming into August, at which time it can do with a bit of a sheering, then will start blooming again for September through November. The first photo above is one of the last of the year's blooms, shot in November. The second photo shows it the following March (2004) when the flowers are returning in ernest.

CorydalisThe species in general tends to have a late-summer estivation, but 'Raspberry Wine' is better at making it through summer without much die-back, so long as it is sheltered from direct sun & remains moist.

It is reportedly a little more sun-hardy than the species, though it would more certainly estivate in summer if it got much sun. Ours is protected underneath the Paperbark Maple amidst such ferns as the evergreen Japanese Tassel Fern which the clump of 'Blackberry Wine' brushes into.

The blooms have a sweet scent. The foliage tends to reach about ten inches height, but can sometimes reach fifteen to twenty inches of height plus the little spikes of guppy-flowers stretching the height to nearly two feet. The blue-green ferny foliage readily spreads to two or three feet in a couple of years.

Growers of this new variety have been chary of sharing its precise history. Several catalogs assume it was crossed with C. lutea which though bright yellow has similar foliage & flowers growing along upright spikes, unlike a pure C. flexuosa which holds its blue flowers close to the surface of the clump. One catalog said point-blank "species unknown" while the majority give only the genus. Terra Nova's catalog on the other hand alluded to 'Blackberry Wine' as derived from a subspecies of C. flexuosa. It has also been suggested that C. flexuosa was pollinated by the native Northwest's purple corydalis (C. scouleri) to get a blackberry-juice color darker than our native purple corydalis. Perhaps specifics will be reported when the cultivar is not so new, & maybe it'll even turn out to have all three species mixed into it.


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