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Vermont Garden Journal: Bleeding Hearts Bloom In Our Spring Gardens

Dicentra or bleeding hearts have red, pink or white blooms with what appears to be a drop of blood at the tip of the flower.

I like the common names of flowers that describe what they really look like. Campanulas really do have bell-shaped flowers, echinacea really does have cone-shaped blooms and Dicentra flowers really look like a bleeding heart. Bleeding hearts are standard, spring flowers that should be up and growing now in your garden.

There are two general types of bleeding hearts. Dicentra spectablis or old-fashioned bleeding heart, and fringed bleeding heart or Dicentra eximia. Most gardeners grow the old-fashioned types that reach two-to-three-feet tall in spring with heart-shaped red, pink or white blooms with what appears to be a drop of blood at the tip of the flower. There's even a golden foliage version with pink flowers. The fringed types are shorter, with more dramatic cut leaves but with similar blooms. Plant bleeding hearts with other woodland, shade lovers such as lungwort, coral bells, astilbe, lady's mantle, trilliums, primroses, and columbine.

While both types of bleeding hearts like a part-shade location to grow, the old-fashioned varieties like a well-drained, humusy soil. The native, fringed types are often found in the wild clinging to rock edges and can tolerate a tougher environment. Also, the old-fashioned bleeding hearts will quickly die back in early summer and go dormant, while the fringed bleeding heart will keep its decorative leaves all summer and may even rebloom.

Don't bother adding fertilizer to bleeding hearts. With a good compost in the soil, they will grow and flower well. Keep the soil moist, but not wet and cut back the old-fashioned types after blooming once the foliage yellows. Deer won't bother either type of bleeding heart and they can go years without needing dividing. Move plants in spring before flowering.

Now for this week's tip: mix radish seed when planting your carrot seed to help the carrots germinate better. The radish are quick germinators, breaking up the soil for the slower carrots. As you harvest the radishes, you'll be making space for carrot roots.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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