Following on from last week’s post on Dicentra ‘Aurora’, I thought I’d write a post about another stellar Dicentra. Of all the various named cultivars of Dicentra formosa, ‘Bacchanal’ seems, to me anyway, to be one of the most reliable. The mass of formosa varieties and hybrids have a habit of doing well for a season before mysteriously disappearing at the end of the year, never to be seen again. Dicentra formosa ‘Bacchanal’, on the other hand, seems quite happy to romp away in it’s woodland-esque home in my garden, doing all the things that the best formosas do: flower prolifically over abundant foliage; spread gently; show a bit of self-reliance.
One significant feature of this plant is it’s colour: the pinky red flowers are a bolder colour than the ‘unimproved’ species. The flowers show the classic Dicentra shape that gave the genus it’s name: Di- meaning two and -centra derived from the Greek for ’spur’. The ‘formosa’ part means ‘beautiful’ or ‘well-formed’. Quite where ‘Bacchanal’ sits in the etymology is up for debate, but I would suggest it has to do with the colour of wine rather than capacity for revelry.
Likes and dislikes
Dicentra formosa is a native of the far side of Northern America: from British Columbia down to California. It grows in the loamy soils of moist woodland, and does best in similar soils here in the UK (I grow it under deciduous shade in soil annually enriched with leaf mould). The species has been in cultivation in the UK in one form or another since the late 18th Century, with the varieties and cultivars available having proliferated in recent years.
All told, Dicentra formosa ‘Bacchanal’ is an excellent plant for a range of situations. That said, light shade and moisture are always appreciated. It’s strong flower colour make it a good selection from the available Dicentra formosa cultivars; it’s sturdy habit also recommends it. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s behaviour is Bacchanalic, it being much too gentle in it’s habits for that, but it’s certainly no shrinking violet either. I will have a few of these for sale later in the year, so don’t forget to subscribe to be kept up to date with any goings on!