34: Autumn 2014

Author: Karin Proudfoot

Thalictrum delavayi var. decorum

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Thalictrum Delavayi Var. Decorum
Karin Proudfoot

I would like to share my experience of growing this wonderful thalictrum, which deserves to be much better known.

When we had the annual meeting of the Ranunculaceae Group at Crûg Farm in 2009 I bought a plant of it, attracted by its large and plentiful flowers. I had only recently started growing thalictrums, having always thought my garden was too dry for them – far from it, they do well and, most importantly, they are rabbit-proof!

I kept this little plant in the cold frame over winter, but when spring came there was no sign of life and, fearing the worst, I tipped it out and found an improbably small network of roots with a single delicate shoot emerging. I replanted it in a smaller pot and watched anxiously. The thin stem became sturdier, grew steadily and flowered profusely, so in the autumn I planted it out in the garden. The following year it reached about 1.8m, and was a mass of flower from late July to early October. This year it is 2.1m high, despite the long dry spell in June and July with no extra watering.

The flowers are large for a thalictrum, and a soft purple-pink, festooning the plant for at least two-thirds of its height. This year for the first time it has produced a second stem, but even one main stem branches generously to give an airy plant with small fine leaves almost hidden by the amazing floral display. Although the stems are sturdy it has a curious desire to attach itself to neighbouring plants, and the leaf stems grow at odd angles, reminiscent of a clematis, as though awaiting the chance to hold on to something.

This year I took some flowering stems to the HPS Kent Group Flower Show where it received the ultimate accolade of Best in Show. Surprisingly, it seemed to be unknown to most people there, including the judges, and I had many requests to propagate it. The online RHS Plant Finder claims that 13 nurseries stock it, though a quick check shows that not all actually include it in their current catalogues. Oddly, those that do list it give a height ranging from 60cm to 1m – rather different to my experience! Even the Crûg Farm catalogue only says it grows “to 1.5m tall”.

First published in the Ranuculaceae Group Newsletter Autumn 2013
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 34.
© Copyright for this article: Karin Proudfoot

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2014. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.

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