Corydalis for the garden.

Yes, a Friday geeky plant post. On schedule ๐Ÿ™‚

Corydalis has hundreds of species spread across the temperate Northern hemisphere, from forests to the high screes of the Himalaya. They are in the same family as poppies.

The high alpine species are a real challenge for the low-altitude gardener, and the semi-desert species from Central Asia are really growable only with some protection from the wet, or they rot.

Some of the annual species are common weeds (fumatories).

This still leaves many that are perfectly growable in the open garden. Some such as C.bracteata, C. turtschaninovii and this beautiful pale blue C. ornata are accustomed to the severe cold winters of Siberia and are really better suited to continental climates with colder winters than mine.

The easiest Corydalis in my garden are the various cultivars of Corydalis solida and its relatives.

The wild type C.solida can be a feeble squinny flowered thing but many beautiful cultivars have been selected, usually in shades of red and pink or purple. They grow from little tubers the size of hazelnuts and reliable double each year. They are lovely in flower and then quickly die back below ground in late spring, until next year. This is the pure white ‘White Knight’:

This next one is the lovely ‘Craigton Red’, bred by friends of ours in Aberdeeen:

The tiny cream-flowered Corydalis malkensis seeds itself around in the garden but never becomes a pest. Just in front of it you can see a rather poor purple wild form of C. solida:

This group grow happily together in the shade of deciduous shrubs and trees. Here you can see Craigton Red, malkensis, wild type solida and at top left you can see the emerging leaves of one of the lovely blue flowered species which I will cover below.

Some more specialised species which would be happier perhaps in drier gardens are Corydalis integra and the dainty Corydalis henrikii:

Corydalis integra
Corydalis henrikii

This is Corydalis lutea. This grows in walls in limestone districts like mine and is widely naturalised. I love it but find it difficult to establish anywhere except in a wall.

The lovely leaves of this next, Corydalis cheilanthifolia, are it best feature. It makes a nice plant in a rock garden crevice but is not very hardy or long lived. It seeds itself around so I never lose it completely.

I finish with these lovely blue flowered species. They flower in late spring. They differ from the solida group in that they are herbaceous perennials without tubers. They benefit hugely from frequent division and replanting. The true Corydalis flexuosa was the most popular one, with numerous named forms. If it had a fault it was that it would die back in the heat of summer. Its hybrids with C. elata and similar species are very vigorous and much less prone to dying back in hot weather. If I had to recommend just one then it would be the superb ‘Craigton Blue’ (again selected by my friends Ian and Maggi Young in Aberdeen.

Corydalis flexuosa
Corydalis elata
Craigton Blue


    1. It is such a lovely thing and goes well with daffodils. It is not easy to obtain and your best bet would be an alpine plant specialist. Harperley Hall farm nurseries currently have it available and Pitcairn Alpines will have dormant corms in summer. X

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Itโ€™s such a lovely sunny day here today and weโ€™ve just been out for a walk and have been discussing plans for our future garden. My husband has got very clear ideas about having a workshop and clearly heโ€™s not willing to share! I would like both a workshop (for making trellises etc) and a greenhouse and a cutting garden and a vegetable garden and, and, and … So my question is, do you and your wife both enjoy gardening and share bits or is it very much your area?

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        1. We both enjoy it. Susan is actually a horticulturist by profession. But we have clearly defined areas of interest. I have my greenhouse and frames, the rock garden and my own little potting shed. She has the herbaceous borders. Shared areas are our little woodland garden and shrub border. It works ok except when I have planted something in a shared area and she accidentally digs it up:). Exciting that you are making these plans! X

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  1. Hi Darren,

    Sorry, I have been missing for a while (life) but you have plenty of readers so likely you haven’t noticed.
    Are you planning another visit out to Canada to see Lisa and Dominique?

    By the way, found your post on your work week quite fascinating… Do Earthworms show pesticide pollution?
    And I didn’t know you were a vegetarian. I am Vegan (well 99% Vegan) and much prefer it to Omnivorism… We’ll my stomach does, especially as I’m gluten free too.

    Hope your blah winter blues have been shaken off by our current warm spell. I imagine that all sorts of colourful heads are showing in your garden.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello there. I had thought I had not heard from you in a while but people often take breaks then catch up all at once.

      Yes, Canada flights are booked for May. Looking forward to it very much.๐Ÿ˜Š

      With regards pesticides, the answer is yes. But how much this is the case in nature I am not sure. The worms we analysed had been cultured in soils given quite high doses. But I did once analyse worms from a wormery used to recycle vegetable waste from our work kitchen and those worms definitely had measurable amounts of neonicotinoids in them.

      Yes I am vegetarian, in fact I have never eaten meat. My dairy intake is dropping too. I use vegan protein shakes at the gym now for instance. Not sure I could go totally vegan.

      This weekend has been so lovely in the garden and yesterday was especially gorgeous. Lots of things springing to life!

      Lovely to hear from you๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’•

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Lovely flowers! Some I’d never seen. It would be so neat if when your garden is just as lush as it can be you would share a panoramic shot. I’d love to see all the flowers in bloom. My mom grew beautiful flower gardens, and while I have something that would compare to the opposite of a green thumb, she could breath on a flower and it would seemingly bloom. It seems like you have much the same gift.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw, thank you! Our garden is surprisingly unattractive as a whole. Largely because of the low fences that fail to hide the neighbours messy gardens and childrens climbing frames etc, so my showing plants in close-up is quite deliberate ๐Ÿ™‚

      If I were in charge (which I am not) then I would install higher fences or hedges to form a nicer backdrop. When we first moved in the neighbours were a pleasant elderly couple so my wife wanted low fences so she could gossip with them. We have regretted this since the current numpties moved in….

      My love of plants and gardens originates with my paternal grandfather who was very like me in a lot of ways.

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  3. So many varieties and colours Darren. Can you tell me how tall the White Knight grows and how wide it spreads? Is it readily available in garden centres? I assume the beautiful read is just available to your friend.

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    1. Thank you Marie.

      Both the red and the white are about 5 or 6 inches tall. They both slowly clump but as they are really ‘bulbs’ they are not spreaders. Those clumps have grown from a single bulb over about ten years.

      White Knight is available from online bulb and alpine nurseries for around ยฃ5 per bulb (it was ยฃ12 when I got mine). Try googling Corydalis solida White Knight. I can see three UK nurseries offering it, though two of those will only offer dormant corms in summer.

      The red is currently only going around between growers and I can’t find a commercial listing. However ‘Ruksans Red’ is available even on Amazon at the moment and is quite similar.

      However – when they go dormant in May I would be very happy to send you some offsets of both. The clumps need splitting anyway. (Provided Brexit does not scupper the legality of sending plants from UK to EU, which it may well do.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Darren, this is interesting and now I’m learning. Thank you for taking so much time to research sources and to explain. Am I best to order dormant corms and plant in summer? I would also be delighted with your offer, Brexit dependent!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I would order dormant corms and plant in summer. Much cheaper with regards postage too.
          If you feel really adventurous, Janis Ruksans in Latvia has been breeding and selecting Corydalis solida cultivars for decades (including some lovely whites and reds) and sells them via the nursery now run by his daughter. Bulbs from Janis are always top quality and as you are in the EU you will be fine. For me, however, Brexit will likely end this source.


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