Coralbells

Bressingham Hybrid
Coral Bells (Coralbells);
aka, Alum Root (Alumroot)


"This world of dew
is only a world of dew --
and yet."

-Issa,
1763-1827

   

'Bressingham' Heuchera x brizoides is a variable strain of hybrid coral bells. Alan Bloom of Bressingham Nursery in England was a pioneer in heuchera hybridization, & thie "Bressingham hybrid mix" was an early achievement.

Nowadays there is more of a fixation on leaf coloration for new heuchera hybrids. Those species with the most colorful leaves generally have the least colorful flowers, while conversely, those species with the most intensely vibrant blooms have plain green leaves. This has tended to cause the gardner to have to choose between colorfully leafed heucheras, or bright flowers, as getting both on one plant seems not to be in the cards.

When the "Bressingham Hybrid" series first appeared under the H. x brizoides, the focus was on floweriness. Hence the scalloped leaves, though very pretty, are quite plain compared to the numerous deep purple, orange, chocolate, veined, mottled, or frosty leaves of the more ornate cultivars (such as 'Crimson Curls' & 'Purple Palace' alumroots). The green basal leaves of 'Bressingham' do have occasional bits of silvering, not quite sufficient to qualify as full blown mottling.

With 'Bressingham,' what one really gets instead of ornate leaves are increased numbers of tiny bell-flowers that rise above the foliage on wirey stems. These are extremely numerous & brightly colored. Frankly, I've found that it is not easy to keep the more fancy-leafed varieties in perfect leaf, so one looses the bright flowers in trade for foliage that is scruffier for more of the year than one might have hoped.

The fancy-leaf varieties all too often never again look quite as nice in the garden as they did when first shipped straight from greenhouse conditions to retailer. So while I do have some of the fancy-leafed varieties & like those too, I've come over time to have a much greater appreciation for the liveliness of "plain" leafed types with reliably impressive flowers & more nearly evergreen foliage. The leaves last through the majority of winter & in some colder climates even take on purple hues in winter to complete with those vaunted fancy-leaf varieties. In our mild winters the leaves remain green all winter. A pre-spring trimming to make room for new growth is a good idea though not absolutely necessary.

H. x brizoides is not a natural species, but begins with H. sanguinea for the sake of its intense red flowers. This is crossed & back-crossed with H. americana, H. bracteata & H. micrantha. From H. bracteata it seems to have inherited its tendency to produce more flowers than most cultivars. From H. americana it acquired uneven touches of silverness to its scalloped leaves, though never quite enough to qualify as full blown mottling. For a fully silver-leafed cultivar, see H americana 'Dale's Strain' Rock Geranium.

Because Bressingham hybrids are seed-grown rather than clonal, & because hybrid seedlings do not in general grow true to the parent, the color range varies from Red, Coral Pink, Light Pink, & White, which is why they are usually sold as "Bressingham Hybrid Mix" without reference to flower coloration.

Ours is the dark pink. It produces those tall panicles of little bell-flowers on wirey stems for May & June, then if deadheaded, reblooms for August & September. Each wirey stem of blooms can be quite long-lasting in the garden. They'll last up to a week in indoor bouquets too; some other cultivars though less flowery will last twice as long in bouquets.

Well drained soil, not overwatered, in considerable sun with just a little afternoon shade suits them best, but they're adaptable to a wide range of conditions, & will do nicely in dappled sunlight or light shade, tolerating more shade the further south they are grown.

See also the vermillian H. x brizoides 'Firefly.'

   



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