Here in Birmingham, Corydalis integra emerges from the ground at the end of January or beginning of February, slowly progressing to full flower in February and March. It has flower spikes of up to 20 flowers, each one with pale purple outer petals and dark purple inner petals. It reaches the height of about 20cm, holding these flowers over soft, green ferny foliage. It also has the benefit of multiplying at a steady rate, producing a sizeable clump in the space of a couple of years.
Being a native to the more mountainous areas of the Greek islands and the surrounding Aegean area, Corydalis integra seems quite at home with the occasional cold spell in the spring. A lot of Corydalis prefer a more continental climate, with a cold winter and a definite move into a warm spring; a late frost can be quite detrimental. C. integra copes with our climatological conundrums with an admirable devil-may-care attitude, and it has sailed through several spells late frosts here without too much trouble. As you might expect from it’s natural distribution it also takes dry spells in it’s stride, although a little moisture when in growth is certainly beneficial.
In the wild, it is a variable plant: the strength of the flower colour and the form of the plant as a whole can be quite different. This variability has been caused, in part, by it’s prevalance across the islands, meaning different populations of the plant develop in isolation from each other. The particular strain on offer here has pale pink outer petals surrounding deep purple inner petals. The foliage is of equal interest, in it’s subtle way: strong growing and glaucous, it provides an excellent foil for the flowers.
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Despite being much lesser known than some other Corydalis, for me it is one of the easiest and most reliable of the bunch. Add this to it’s very early flowering period and you have a choice addition to the spring garden.