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Centranthus Ruber - Hardy Perennial

Author: John Wood

Centranthus Ruber - Hardy Perennials and Old Fashioned Flowers

Centranthus Ruber Described.

Centranthus Ruber - Syn. Valeriana Ruber—Red Valerian; Nat. Ord. Valerianaceæ.

This is a strong and vigorous garden plant, with a somewhat shrubby appearance; it is herbaceous, perennial, and sometimes classed as a British species, therefore hardy; but though its classification among British plants is justifiable, it is only so on the ground of its being a naturalised subject, its original habitats being in the South of Europe. It is a favourite and "old-fashioned" flower, and it fully justifies the estimation in which it is held, the flowers being produced in large bunches of a fine rich colour, which are very durable. Its shrubby habit is not one of its least recommendations; seen at a distance—which it easily can be—it might be taken for a ruby-coloured rhododendron, to which, of course, it has no resemblance when closely inspected. It grows 2ft. high or more. The flowers are a bright ruby colour, very small, but closely massed in great numbers, borne in corymbs, terminal and much branched; "the calyx-limb, at first revolute, afterwards expanded into a feather-like pappus;" the corolla is tubular, long, slender, and spurred; the segments or petals are small and uneven, both in form and arrangement; the germen is long; anther prominent and large for so small a flower, viz., ¾in. long and hardly ¼in. in diameter. The stems are stout, round, hollow, and glaucous; they are furnished with leaves of various shapes at the nodes, as lance-shaped, long oval, heart-shaped and plain, elliptical and pointed, wavy and notched, and arrow-shaped, lobed, and toothed. The root leaves are mostly ovate, lanceolate, and entire. The whole plant is smooth and glaucous. From the description given, it may readily be seen that when in flower it will be effective—massive heads of ruby flowers topping a shrub-like plant of shining foliage and glaucous hue. It is eminently fitted for lines or borders where other strong growers are admitted. In a cut state the flowers are very useful; they are strongly scented, something like the lilac, with just a suspicion of Valerian in it. I ought not to omit mention of its extra brightness as seen by gaslight—this fact adds much to its value for indoor decoration.

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Centranthus Ruber

It may be grown in any kind of garden soil, needing nothing at any time in the way of special treatment; but if it is supplied with a little manure it will pay back with interest, in the form of extra-sized bunches and brighter flowers.

C. r. albus is a white-flowering kind of the above; its main points of difference are its paler green foliage, smaller sized corymbs, shorter growth, and rather later season of bloom.

C. r. coccinea is another kind; the specific name is misleading. It is not scarlet, but nearer a rose colour, and when compared with the typical colour it appears much inferior; still, it is a good variety. All the three colours, when grown side by side, are very showy when in bloom.

This species, with its varieties, may be easily propagated by root divisions at any time from late summer to spring; the long fleshy roots should not be broken more than can be helped; every piece with a crown on it will make a flowering plant the first season.

Flowering period, June to September.

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