This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In my botanical researches in California, I have found few flowers which were discovered with as much pleasure as our various Dicentra.
I well recollect the first time I found the variety known as D. formosa. At that time I did not know we were so highly favored as to have any members of the family within our borders. It was in a little grassy vale. When I saw it, so much did it resemble D. spectabilis, that I thought it was a stray plant of that well known Chinese variety, the Bleeding Heart of our gardens. On a slight examination, however, I soon saw my error, but so highly pleased was I with it, that I dug it and removed it to my garden.
The Dicentra belongs to the Natural Order Fumariaceae. In California we have three varieties that I am acquainted with.
Dicentra formosa in the Sierra Nevada, at an altitude of 6,000 to 8,000 feet, is found in grassy vales near streams of water. It grows from one to two feet high. The flowers are borne on a compound racemose scape, from which they hang pendent. The flowers are of a rosy purple color; the center is a bright cream color, thus forming one of the grandest combinations among flowers.
Dicentra uniflora is found in the northern part of the State, high up on mountain sides. It is a dwarf-growing variety, never exceeding six inches in height. The flowers are borne on a simple racemose scape. They are a delicate flesh color throughout.
Dicentra chrysantha is the most robust and vigorous of our native varieties; often growing-four to five feet high. The leaves are immense, •often fifteen inches long. The flowers are borne on long racemes, from which often branch out shorter scapes. The flowers are large, one-half to one inch in length being the average size. They are of the most brilliant yellow color, and when the sun shines, they sparkle and glisten as though freshly varnished. This variety, while it lacks much of the graceful habit of the other varieties, supasses them in brilliancy and show. In their natural haunts they grow in a moderately light soil, in the vicinity of running streams. In cultivating them it will be best to plant in similar places, if possible. The finest flowers I have always found on plants growing in the shade of trees.