‘Bacchanal’ is a red-flowered cultivar of the woodland-dwelling Dicentra formosa. The flowers are produced in abundance over a carpet of finely divided pale green foliage. 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 without asking too much in return.
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.
As mentioned above, ‘Bacchanal’ is most at home in the dappled shade of woodland edges. I like to see it as an adventurous plant; it sends out creeping rhizomes that explore the surrounding soil, sending out new leaves and flower shoots wherever it finds things to it’s liking. Despite it’s creeping habit, it isn’t difficult to contain it, should you wish to do so. With the exploratory roots only just below the soil surface, a quick flick of the fork exposes any rhizomes that may be heading into unwanted areas.
Dicentra formosa cultivars are a bit of mess, in part due to the similarities between varieties, and also due to seedlings being sold as named cultivars. My strain of ‘Bacchanal’ is propagated by division, and as such is a clone of the plant I originally bought. Seedlings of this plant generally seem to produce red-to-pink flowers, but often not of the same intense red as the parent. The strain offered here also has the habit of producing very finely divided leaves (more so than the species).
To explore further:
All told, Dicentra formosa ‘Bacchanal’ is an excellent plant for a range of situations. It’s strong flower colour make it a good selection from the available Dicentra formosa cultivars; it’s sturdy habit also recommends it.