Thursday, April 18, 2013
Pasque flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris, Ranunculaceae
Pasque flower usually flowers in our garden around Eastertide, but this year an early Easter and an exceptionally late spring means that the flowers are only just opening. I particularly like the covering of fine silky hairs that trap water droplets on misty mornings.
Pulsatilla vulgaris is a rare and endangered species of calcareous grassland in England, now confined to just a few locations. Many of its old sites have been ploughed up. In the wild the plant often grows in nutrient-poor soils and is usually quite small, with only a couple of flowers, but cultivated varieties grown in better soil conditions are far more floriferous. The secret of long term cultivation seems to be to grow it in very well-drained soils in a sunny spot.
After the flowers have finished the feathery seed heads stay attached to the plant for several weeks. I've found that the best way to grow the plants from seed is to sow them soon after they're ripe - stored seed has much poorer germination.
It think it's a charming plant, nicely summed up by William Robinson in The English Flower Garden: "There are few sights more pleasant to the lover of spring flowers", he wrote, "than to see its purple blooms just showing through the hard grass on a bleak down on an early spring day".