Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pasqueflowers: queens of the spring

Pulsatilla vulgaris in early April
Plain old common European pasqueflower. Latin pasque has just passed, and Orthodox Eastern is a month away--and these shall reign supreme in between (as usual). I remember early in the Rock Alpine Garden's history this had spread so much (hundreds if not thousands of plants) throughout the garden that I got one of the very few mandates of my career to "remove those weeds"--which I did. Regretfully! A few persisted, and this is one of the progeny of those, still making a spectacle in bloom and later in seed as well.

Pulsatilla patens by the Foothills highway south of Boulder

I think my favorite will always be our native species, so common throughout the Piemont mesas and foothills of Colorado. I have seen it above timberline on Medicine Bow pass and also in the Collegiate peaks. These rather small specimens were all that I found where there are usually huge clumps during last year's drought.

Frontal view of the same...couldn't resist!

Pulsatilla slavica
 One of the drawbacks--in fact, just about the only drawback, of the pulsatillas is that you often find pretty much the same thing with different names and different plants with the same name, particularly if you grow them from seed. I had this as Pulsatilla vulgaris, but was told it was P. slavica: Methinks there's a bit of splitting going on here. Whatever the name, this was a particularly stunning plant.

Pulsatilla halleri
I have grown several plants that looked like this under the name P. halleri--but I have also had things that look much more like P. vulgaris. This is rates very high for me because it looks so much like our native pasqueflowers, but is even more accommodating in the garden.

Pulsatilla vulgaris (Red shades)
I have some very mixed feelings about red pasqueflowers. Ordinarily I am very fond of red--but these never seem to capture the same purity of redness that they do in the violet and lavender shades...the jury is still out. I once grew a fulminating, gorgeous red garnet flowered P. ambigua--which I must scan and post some day...admit it: even though the flower is showy--isn't there something sort of cardboard about the red? Or perhaps Necco-wafery? As a presidential candidate once said: "we want a choice, not a Necco"...

Pulsatilla aurea

I am not at all convinced this is the correct name for this diminutive morsel which I first grew a quarter century ago. I would grow it--again and again--from various sources and it would survive two, maybe three years before disappearing. I decided it was a miff (or is it a mimp? two extremely useful rock garden adjectives coined by H. Lincoln Foster, one of my heros)...

Then, Laporte Avenue Nursery began selling it (don't try--they don't have it this year). Their form looked identical to what I used to grow--only it was husky and vigorous. I have a half dozen wonderful clumps from them that bloom late in the pasque flower season, and delight me for weeks on end....

But what of Pulsatilla campanella which I have grown for years, and admired on the Tian Shan mountains? And the brooding P. pratensis in its many forms...or the opalescent cups of P. vernalis which I admired by the thousand on the Engadine half a lifetime ago...And the huge clumps of P. occidentalis in the Northern Rockies mimicking P. alpina in the Alps?

There's a lot more needs to be shown and said about this wonderful group of indispensable wildflowers...


  1. It's great to see what some of the other Pulsatilla species look like. We have patens here in Wisconsin, but I don't have any growing at my place. Looking to change that in the future once I find an affordable seed/plant source.

  2. I think you will find P. patens challenging: we have rarely kept it more than a few years, no matter what kind of soil/watering regime we give it. But the Eurasian ones (aside from alpine)are very accommodating.

  3. As a SmyrnoCretan, reading this blog is extremely "nutricious".
    (Αχ και αναρωτιέμαι αν έχετε παπαρούνες αυτή τη εποχή. Την επόμενη εβδομάδα θα φτιάξω σερμπέτι με τις παπαρούνες.)

  4. Κάθε φορά που κοιτάζω το blog σας,Özlemaki, βρίσκω τον εαυτό μου πολύ πεινασμένος για το εξαιρετικό φαγητό του Ανατολικου Μεσογείου.

  5. eyxaristw poly gia ta wraia logia sas. kai apo tin alli pleyra exw polles erotiseis gia sas. sto telefteo mou post egrapsa gia ena dentro, to "Celtis" pou ftiaxnoume toursi apo -tis akres- tou kladiou tou ayti tin epoxi. Mipos den yparxei pia to Celtis stin Ellada; Giati oi filoi mou -oi antallagentes toulaxiston- den to gnorizoune; anarotiemai poly. Trogete kai ta frouta tou. (mipos einai kalitera na sas stilw mail gia na min gemisw to post sas me tis erotiseis mou;)
    xeretismous mou apo ti Smyrni.


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