H. Perennial & Old Fashioned Garden Plants & Flowers by John Wood
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Bocconia Cordata - Hardy Perennial
Author: John Wood
Bocconia Cordata Described.
Bocconia Cordata - Syn. Macleaya Cordata; Nat. Ord. Papaveraceæ.
A hardy herbaceous perennial from China. It is a tall and handsome plant; its fine features are its stately habit, finely-cut foliage, and noble panicles of buds and flowers; during the whole progress of its growth it is a pleasing object, but in the autumn, when at the height of 7ft. it has become topped with lax clusters of flowers, over 2ft. long, it is simply grand. There are other names in trade lists, as B. japonica and B. alba, but they are identical with B. cordata; possibly there may be a little difference in the shades of the flowers, but nothing to warrant another name. Having grown the so-called species or varieties, I have hitherto found no difference whatever; and of the hardy species of this genus, I believe B. cordata is the only one at present grown in English gardens. During spring and early summer this subject makes rapid growth, pushing forth its thick leafy stems, which are attractive, not only by reason of their somewhat unusual form, but also because of their tender and unseasonable appearance, especially during spring; it is rare, however, that the late frosts do any damage to its foliage. It continues to grow with remarkable vigour until, at the height of 5ft. or more, the flower panicles begin to develop; these usually add 2ft. or more to its tallness.
The flowers are very small but numerous, of an ivory-white colour; they are more beautiful in the unopened state, when the two-sepalled calyx for many days compresses the tassel-like cluster of stamens. Each half of the calyx is boat-shaped, and before they burst they have the form and colour of clean plump groats; as already hinted, the stamens are numerous, and the anthers large for so small a flower, being spathulate. As soon as the stamens become exposed, the calyx falls, and in a short time—a few hours—the fugacious anthers disappear, to be followed only a little later by the fall of the filaments; there is then left a naked but headed capsule, half the size of the buds, and of the same colour; they may be traced on the panicle in the illustration (Fig. above). From the fading quality of the above-named parts, the buds and capsules chiefly form the ornamental portion of the compound racemes.
The leaves are from 8in. to 10in. in diameter, the largest being at the base of the tall stems; their outline, as the specific name implies, is heart-shaped, but they are deeply lobed and dentate, in the way of the fig leaf, but more profusely so; they are stalked, of good substance, glaucous, nearly white underneath, which part is also furnished with short stiff hairs. The glaucous hue or farina which covers the leaf-stalks and main stems has a metallic appearance, and is one of its pleasing features as a decorative plant. For many weeks the flowers continue to be developed, and from the deciduous quality of the fading parts, the panicles have a neat appearance to the last. In a cut state the long side branches of flowers, more than a foot long, are very effective, either alone or when mixed with other kinds, the little clusters of white drop-like buds being suitable for combination with the choicest flowers.
As a decorative specimen for the more ornamental parts of the garden, and where bold subjects are desired, there are few herbaceous things that can be named as more suitable; from the day it appears above the ground, to and throughout its fading days in the autumn, when it has pleasing tints, it is not only a handsome but distinct form of plant; as an isolated specimen on the lawn, or by frequented walks, it may be grown with marked effect; if too nearly surrounded with other tall things, its beauty is somewhat marred; but wherever it is planted it should have a good fat loam of considerable depth. I ought not to omit saying that it forms a capital subject for pot culture; plants so treated, when 12in. or 18in. high, no matter if not then in flower, are very useful as window or table plants; but of course, being herbaceous, they are serviceable only during their growing season; they need not, however, be a source of care during winter, for they may with safety be plunged outside in a bed of ashes or sand, where they will take care of themselves during the severest weather.
It may be propagated by cuttings taken from the axils of the larger leaves during early summer; if this method is followed, the cuttings should be pushed on, so that there are plenty of roots before the winter sets in. I have found it by far the better plan to take young suckers from established plants; in good rich soil these are freely produced from the slightly running roots; they may be separated and transplanted any time, but if it is done during summer they will flower the following season. Tall as this subject grows, it needs no supports; neither have I noticed it to be troubled by any of the garden pests.
Flowering period, September to August.
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