Proof of life

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any well-written piece of garden literature immediately provokes a craving to acquire the plant described. Two years ago, I was seized by a desire to acquire masses of winter aconites.

Eranthis hyemalis are supposed to be easy to grow. I suspect that my first mistake was to purchase them from a bulb catalogue rather than a local nursery. These bulbs–tubers, actually–hate to dry out. I knew this fact heading into the adventure, but I (mis)laid my confidence in modern marketing, sales, JIT delivery, and so on. The tubers came packed in some sort of dampened medium and I planted them immediately.


They did flower. Here is proof. I can say “they” because I think I got three flowers out of the mass. But where are they now?

They should be in flower, by all accounts I can find. They are said to be fine companions for snowdrops, and flourish and flower in similar conditions. The snowdrops have been in flower for weeks now.

Much of the gardening literature I read comes from the UK, where they take gardening far more seriously than do we here in the States. But some reading between the lines, in addition to a willingness to experiment, becomes necessary because conditions are so vastly different here in central North Carolina. Blistering summer temperatures, stifling humidity, much clearer sunlight, warmer winters, and much drier conditions overall make comparisons an apples-and-oranges affair.

I tend to forget this, I suppose. But aconites are supposed to be so easy! Good drainage?  Reasonable fertility? Moderate pH? All these conditions were carefully provided. They should benefit from the tons of compost heaped on the roses growing close by. I left the leaves on last spring to permit maximum photosynthesis before the plants went dormant. Perhaps they get too much sun? They are planted on the south side of the garden, but the light is filtered for all but perhaps four or five hours a day (not great for the roses, but that’s a story for another day).

I was promised a vigorous naturalizer that would provide winter cheer. I interpreted this to mean it would come back this year. I adore this plant–I think it looks in bud like a very tiny Muppet, with its bright round flower head surrounded by a goofy fringe of leaves.

aconite 2 closeup

I suppose I can sell a kidney and buy a quantity in flower at Plant Delights Nursery, but I’d rather it didn’t come to that. Plant Delights offers magnificent plants at magnificent prices. Maybe later in life, when the children are educated and out of the house (they will leave the nest), perhaps I will be able to splurge there more often (i.e., once or twice). But the children need shoes more than I need a special spring ephemeral or winter-flowering bulb, however charming.

Has anyone out there any tips for me? Or must I add this to the ever-growing list of Stuff I’ve Killed?


2 thoughts on “Proof of life

  1. I hope your winter aconite shows up soon with a good excuse! This is an interesting plant that I have learned about only this year so can’t offer any tips, but it does seem wonderful.

  2. Pingback: Garden log, 3.31.14 | MissingHenryMitchell

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.