Golden Bleeding Heart

"You pass by love unheeding
To gain the goal you long --
But my heart, my heart is bleeding:
I cannot sing this song."

-George William Russell


Dicentra spectabilis 'Goldheart' wants even less sun than the species as a whole, its golden foliage being more than ordinarily sensitive to sunburn. Ours is protected by overshadowing woody shrubs, while nearby in more light is a 'Winchester Fanfair' Cape Fuchsia which is partially evergreen through winter. So when the Bleeding Heart has completely died back in winter, that little corner is never dull. In March, the Cape Fuchsia gets trimmed back & it grows back rapidly along with the "Goldheart." Also in this protected area is D. spectabilis var. alba with lime-green foliage & pure white blooms, growing close enough to "Goldheart" that the white & the pink lockets intermingle.

It's almost immediately amazing as soon as it pokes out its leaves in March. The photograph above is just its beginning in earliest spring. The first flower-buds appear right along with the first leaves, & by late March it has a substantial number of bright leaves & already a few full flowers. In April & May it truly goes to town sending out long fountaining golden plumes loaded with pink heart-lockets.

This cultivar was developed at Hadspen House in Somerset, England. Hadspen House's famed "Arts & Crafts" style gardens reach back to the 17th Century. It had fallen into a degree of neglect until the 1970s when restoration & enlargement began under the guidance of one of the Grande Dames of gardening, Penelope Hobhouse, author of many "natural gardening" books, including The Country Gardener (1979) which in particular documents her work at Hadspen.

In 1986 the area of Hadspen known as the Upper & Walled Gardens were taken over by Canadian Northwesteners Nori & Sandra Pope, who moved to England in order to transform that hillside into one of the preeminant "Colourist" gardens in the world. Their nursery is today famed especially for plants that lend softly brilliant color contrasts for refined gardening taste.

The Popes have written a book, Colour by Design (1998) which is an instructive expression of their gardening philosophy. "Goldheart" (often incorrectly rendered "Gold Heart") is just one of their plants that achieve that difficult balance of showiness & subtlty. We also have another of their excellent shade plants, 'Hadspen Cream' Brunnera.


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