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Saxifraga Ceratophylla - Hardy Perennial

Author: John Wood

Saxifraga Ceratophylla - Hardy Perennials and Old Fashioned Flowers

Saxifraga Ceratophylla Described.

Saxifraga Ceratophylla - Horn-leaved Saxifrage; Nat. Ord. Saxifragaceæ.

For the most part, this numerous genus flowers in spring and early summer, the species now under notice being one of the late bloomers; its flowers however, like most of the Saxifrages, are small and insignificant; on the other hand, its foliage, as may be seen by the illustration (Fig. 83) is highly ornamental. In November, the grand half-globular tufts of rigid dark green foliage are delicately furnished with a whitish exudation, which, seen through a magnifying glass, resembles scales, but seen by the naked eye—and it can be clearly seen without stooping—it gives the idea of hoar frost. We have here, then, an interesting and ornamental subject, which, when grown in collections of considerable variety, proves attractive; and as even after many degrees of frost, it retains its beauty, and, I may add, its finest form, it may be confidently recommended as a suitable winter garden subject. This species proves evergreen in our climate, though a native of Spain, from which country it was imported about eighty years ago. It is sometimes called S. cornutum, a name quite applicable, and it is frequently confounded with S. pentadactylis (the Five-fingered-leaved Saxifrage), which it much resembles, from which, however, it is distinct in several respects.

Fig. 83. Saxifraga Ceratophylla.
(Leaf, one-half natural size.)
Its flowers are small, white, and numerous, produced on slender stalks in summer; they are of the general type of the flowers of the mossy section, and need not be further described. The foliage forms rigid cushions, dense, rounded, and of a dark green colour in the early season; later it becomes grey, with an exudation; the leaves are arranged in rosette form, having stout stalks, channelled or folded on the upper surface; there are three deep divisions, and others less cut; the segments are subulate, bent back and tipped with horny mucrones, whence its specific name; these horn-like points are bent under, which, together with their transparency, renders them all but invisible; they can, however, be clearly seen if brought near the eye and looked for on the under side of the foliage. The leaves are of good substance, 1in. to 2in. long, having broad stipules; the stems are exceedingly slender in the older parts, and somewhat woody, having the appearance of being dried up and dead.
On rockwork it is seen in its best form, as the slope not only shows it off better, but is conducive to a finer growth. In flat places, the dense cushions, which are 6in. or 8in. high, often rot from too much moisture. I have never seen this occur in the drier positions afforded by the slopes of a rockery. If planted between large stones it has a happy way of adapting itself to them, and few plants are more effective. It thrives equally well in soil of a loamy or vegetable character, but it seems to enjoy a little limestone, small pieces of which I place round the specimens; they also serve to hold up the lower foliage and favour the admission of air. Where alpines are grown in pots this should form one, as it makes a charming specimen; the drainage should be perfect. It also makes a capital edging plant, especially for raised beds, as then it is accommodated in the same way as on rockwork.

It may be propagated by taking the slips nearest the earth, which will often be found to have a few rootlets, but if not they will still prove the more suitable; if taken in summer and dibbled into sand, they will make good roots in a week or two, when they may be transplanted to their permanent quarters, so as to become established before winter.

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Saxifraga Ceratophylla

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