Should you, like me, be lost in the wormhole that is the Corydalis genus, might I suggest that you join me in the sub-wormhole of biennial Corydalis. Amongst the biennials I grow: C. heterocarpa, a showy yellow number; C. ophiocarpa, a curious and unusual thing; and then the hidden gem that is Corydalis linstowiana.
I say it’s a biennial, but C. linstowiana doesn’t take this title seriously. I have one plant in it’s third year, and I’ve recently found one flowering away in it’s first year. I share a deep affinity with such an approach: rules are necessary unless they get in the way of what I want to do.
I described it as a ‘hidden gem’ earlier and perhaps I should qualify this. ‘Hidden’ because of lower status that seems to be awarded to the biennial Corydalis. Amongst alpine enthusiasts, the tuberous species are highly prized, and the more general gardener seems to wax lyrical about the herbaceous, blue flowered C. flexuosa and friends. The biennials are lesser known and lesser loved. ‘Gem’ because it’s diminuitive beauty is a delight to behold. Firstly the leaves; finely divided and patterned in shades of green that are particularly bold in the younger leaves. The flowers are light blue at the tail, dark blue on the lips, and white on the nose. The seed pods dangle down from the stem and as the seeds ripen, the two sides of the pod spring back in little curls and fling the seeds asunder (they are particularly prone to this when touched). I’m sure the roots are lovely too.
For some gardens, the perennial blue flowered Corydalis are a bit problematic. They like a bit of moisture, so spots that dry out too much aren’t really suitable. Corydalis linstowiana, being shorter lived, is more used to making a go of things. Biennial plants are often opportunists and more tolerant of difficult growing conditions. If you’re after blue flowered Corydalis, but don’t get on with the perennials, C. linstowiana could well fit the bill.