Monday 23 October 2017

Easter too early for the lovely pasque to bloom

Gardening

Gerry Daly

EASTER has come too early this year for the pasque flower to be in bloom, and even if Easter had not been early, the recent bouts of cold weather would surely have put the brakes on its appearance.

In the best of years, this plant needs a late Easter to have a good chance of flowering in keeping with its name, pasque being an old term for Easter.

Generally, the pasque flower, or pulsatilla, flowers in April and May and, in warmer countries, it is reliably the flower of Easter. This is a small plant of alpine meadows in Europe, thriving in freely draining stony soil. For this reason, it is usually grown in a rock garden. It likes full sunshine and grows best in limy soil.

The flowers are remarkably beautiful. It is a member of the buttercup family, along with anemones and clematis. The flowers bear a strong resemblance to these two lovely flowers, as they often have a smoky, dark tone.

The flowers of pulsatilla are usually nodding when in bud, arching over at the neck of the flower stem. In sunshine, the flowers face upwards and open fully.

Pulsatilla foliage dies back in mid-summer and emerges fresh in spring. When the leaves and flowers first unfold out of the soil in spring, they are covered with silvery hairs that protect the delicate stems and leaves from drying out in the harsh spring winds. The silver hairs slow the air passing over the stems but they also give the plant an attractive silvery sheen.

Some plants are hairier than others and some can appear almost white from a distance. The silver colour is perfect as a setting for the flowers, which are generally pale purple, but may be white, pale lilac, mauve, purple red, violet or deep purple.

Some of these have been selected as named forms but otherwise the flower colour can vary.

After flowering, the flower develops as a silky seed-head with a rounded top of silky hairs, which is remarkably like the seed-head of wild clematis, but seeds are not usually produced in this climate.

The plant makes a deep, strong taproot which needs deep well-drained soil.

It is possible to take root cuttings from the deep taproot in winter to propagate a plant of a special colour. But there is a risk in this because disturbing the taproot can cause the plant to go into decline and die.

Buy pulsatilla in flower so that you can be sure of getting the colour you like.

Irish Independent

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