I, like many other gardeners at this time of year, spend a little too long noodling around looking for signs of growth. Luckily, Corydalis solida ‘Purple Beauty’ likes to make it’s presence known as soon as it gets the chance. It is always amongst the first, if not the first, Corydalis to show in my garden.
‘Purple Beauty’ came about as the result of a cross between Corydalis solida, and the related Corydalis decipiens (a taxonomically elusive species that deserves a post all of it’s own). C. solida is a common species in cultivation, whose natural distribution ranges from Central Europe to Russia. In the wild, it usually has a pale purple colour (although there is quite a lot of variation). C. decipiens is a species of unknown origin, itself thought to be a horticultural hybrid. It has been in cultivation for many years and has a strong purple colour. The cross between these two species results in an excellent plant with deep purple flowers over the usual soft ferny foliage typical of C. solida and it’s related species.
In the Garden
‘Purple Beauty’ is one of the first to appear above ground, usually visible by the end of January. In my garden, it is often beginning to flower just as some of the more well known cultivars such as ‘George Baker’ and ‘Beth Evans’ are emerging from the soil. This year, it was above ground before February came along, but has been on pause through the recent cold weather. Now that the ice has thawed and the rain has come, it is rapidly unfurling and on the cusp of flowering. As well as flowering in profusion right at the start of the year, it bulks up well, with the tubers often splitting in three and building up a sizeable clump in no time at all. Being early to rise, it is also early to bed – it’s soft stems collapsing quickly; the fleeting beauty over before many other plants have even started growing.
Here in Birmingham, I grow all of the C. solida cultivars in raised beds enriched with leaf mould every year. An oak tree provides shade at the tail end of spring, but for most of it’s growing period, the plants get full morning sun. I have found Corydalis to be quite forgiving of soil type, but moisture retentive and well drained soil seems to serve them particularly well.
Corydalis solida ‘Purple Beauty’ is an excellent and easy going cultivar of one of the most straight forward Corydalis species. For me it is one my best growers: a reliable favourite. I still have a few of these available to buy and am aiming to have them on sale as tubers in the summer too!