Bluebells and Bleeding Hearts

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) and Old-Fashioned Bleeding Hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) are among the most endearing blooms of spring.

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One reason for this is that they look so good on their own or in combination.

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Virginia Bluebells require a little planning, because once they set seed they just keel over. You need something to step forward and continue the show when this happens.

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Even so, it must be acknowledged that Virginia Bluebells are just wonderful. They just are. I don’t want to engage in gratuitous nationalism in these fractious days, but the English and Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta and H. hispanica) are simply no competition.

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To prove my internationalist credentials, though, I must say that I far prefer the Old-Fashioned Bleeding Hearts, which hail from East Asia, to the North American Wild Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia). The North American species is just a bit too plain for me (and they’re not even in the same genus anymore).

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False Forget-Me-Not (Brunnera macrophyla) is another companion for Old-Fashioned Bleeding Heart that offers a blue/pink color combination.

DSC_0571False-Forget-Me-Not also goes by the common name Siberian Bugloss. I prefer the straight species to the variegated cultivars, which are often easier to find in garden centers. Brunnera macrophylla is not an ephemeral; in fact it can make a satisfactory ground cover through the summer.

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Blue and pink is nice, but personally I think blue and yellow is even better. This is one reason why I have lots of Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) mixed with Virginia Bluebells in several shady corners of the garden.

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Both Celandine Poppy and Virginia Bluebells will spread freely by seed. Arguably, the Celandine Poppy spreads a little too freely – you may find yourself digging up clumps of it. I consider this a small price to pay, though.

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Here’s a corner tucked up against the back of our attached garage and the back porch – just a mass of Virginia Bluebells and Celandine Poppies at this time of year.

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What’s your favorite blue/pink or blue/yellow flower combination for spring?

40 Comments on “Bluebells and Bleeding Hearts

  1. I’m with you on the old fashioned bleeding hearts. Forget-me-nots are one of my favourite companion plants – simple, but sweet.

  2. OK, so we will have to agree to differ; you cannot seriously think anything is more wonderful than an English wood in spring full of English bluebells that look like pools of water under the newly opening vivid green foliage. Of course, they can be very invasive, that’s why they are so great in woodland. It is so pleasing to see the familiar plants in your coming into flower. I love the rhythm of the seasons.

    • I feel the same about the seasons. As for English Bluebells – well, I must admit I have never seen them other than in pictures.

  3. All I know about my bleeding hearts is that my neighbor gave me some when she was selling her home. I like that critters don’t eat them.

  4. You have such nice stands of Virginia Bluebells. I have had one plant for years. I don’t know why it doesn’t reproduce. Maybe I should just buy a bunch more of them. Your pink and blue combinations are sweet.

  5. Beautiful spring photos of your garden, Jason! I remember bleeding hearts from childhood; they are very beautiful. My mother had one growing by the back door near her beloved white peony. I occasionally came across a white version of bleeding heart when hiking the Mt. Higby area that I think went by the name of Dutchman’s Breeches. I haven’t tried growing bleeding hearts here, yet. Our heavy clay soil, cool wet winters and hot dry summers sometimes don’t work well for plants I knew and grew back east.

    • Dutchman’s Breeches, if it’s the plant I’m thinking of, has flowers that look like upside down pairs of white pants. Very delicate and endearing.

  6. I love the bluebells and wish they grew here like they do in other places, but I never see them.
    I like the old fashioned bleeding heart but was never happy with the big hole it left in gardens in midsummer.

    • Around here the Bleeding Hearts may not go dormant until well into August, so that’s not quite as much of an issue.

  7. I just planted some bleeding heart today. I have always loved it and it was one of the few perennials that the moose didn’t eat when I lived in Alaska.

  8. I planted two bleeding hearts for the first time last year, and they were lovely, but they seem very slow to return. One of them is only 4″ wide by 2″ tall. The other is even smaller, if it’s bleeding heart. (It also looked like poison ivy. Hope I didn’t mistake one for the other.) Your bed of the Celandine Poppies and Virginia Bluebells is so pretty.

  9. What a lovely combination – I have bleeding hearts right by our front door and it never occurred to me that blue would be a good pairing. That spot is north facing, but from what I have read, Virginia bluebells will tolerate a shady spot, so they may be just the ticket.

    • Virginia Bluebells will definitely take shade. If Bleeding Hearts do ok there, the Virginia Bluebells should do fine.

  10. You are a naughty man, Jason, to get us Europeans going like this! Echoing Christina – and I’d go further. I think that most of us brought up with the privilege of living near an English (or Scottish!) bluebell wood have incredibly strong, happy memories tied in with being amongst them at just the right kind of year. Maybe your feelings about the Mertensia are the same? To us, you see, beautiful as they are, they are just ‘garden flowers’, so seeing them does not make us feel close to something in nature that is absolutely perfect. Your lovely border near the garage is just stunning with the celandine poppies & mertensia. Due to the gradual evolution, of this garden, I can’t pinpoint my favourite blue/yellow or blue/pink combinations. Many flowers that are blue seem to enjoy little shady corners and more rain than we can offer. I did enjoy a narcissus ‘Peeping Jenny’ and brunnera combination in the one tiny shady corner of my own garden.

    • Mertensia definitely grow wild in the woods here – definitely not just garden flowers. In fact, some don’t like to put them in a garden because they’re a bit unsightly when they go dormant.

  11. What very nice combinations, Jason. Your garden completely changed its look, I love blue-yellow colors. I have bleeding heart and brunnera, but they are not in bloom yet.

  12. I think I remember you mentioning an anti-celadine neighbor who considered them weeds, and when you said that I couldn’t help but agree. I now have to take that back, they look great with the bluebells, it’s a perfect combination and I think a woodland full would be a great start!

    • It’s true that they seed themselves all over the place, but I think they’re worth the chore of removing them where they are not wanted.

  13. Hello Jason, I love the bleeding hearts but they are rather thuggish, they’ve grown over the top of ferns and hostas that are trying to share a border with them!

  14. Forget me nots and tulips are lovely together but I must protest about the bluebells. Yours are wonderful Jason but they are not a patch on a woodland carpet of English bluebells on a still Spring day with their scent filling the air. Really. No competition.

  15. Wonderful! I must add though that an English bluebell wood really can’t be beaten. (Am I biased?) 😉 Do Virginia bluebells smell as good as English ones too? I like the blue and yellow combination of False Forget- me-not with a small yellow spurge that grows in my front garden. Pink and blue must be the Muscari and hellebores. 🙂 I can see the new name for Dicentra rolls off your tongue easier now. I still can’t spell it without looking it up!

  16. I love all of those combinations.I agree with you about the Virginia bluebells being so much prettier than the English and Spanish ones.xxx

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