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Spectacular Japanese dicentras

Dicentra 'Burning Hearts' - glorious new Japanese dicentra. Image: ©Walters Gardens, Inc Lecturing to the Master Gardeners of Rhode Island on Saturday, there was quite a gasp when I showed pictures of Dicentra 'Burning Hearts'. And after I featured it on my Royal Horticultural Society New Plants blog a couple of weeks back I got such a response by comments, emails and tweets that I thought I’d look at the whole series here. So far there are three: ‘Candy Hearts’, ‘Burning Hearts’ and ‘Ivory Hearts’.

First to come was ‘Candy Hearts’, a cross between a red form of D. peregrina and D. eximea. It features rose pink flowers over grey green leaves. Next came the sumptuous ‘Burning Hearts’ with silvery blue leaves and deep red flowers edged in white and the latest to appear is ‘Ivory Hearts’, with white flowers and gray-blue leaves. The leaves of all are very lacily divided into slender segments, all have an unexpectedly long flowering season.

Japanese plant breeder Akira Shiozaki with his dicentras. Image: ©Luc Klinkhamer All were raised by Japanese breeder Akira Shiozaki from Fukagawa City, Hokkaido. For many years he’d been developing forms of the small, intensely blue-gray leaved D. peregrina, a species from eastern Siberia and China which many find difficult to grow. But then he decided to cross these Dicentra 'Ivory Hearts' - new Japanese dicentra hybrid from Akira Shiozaki. Image: ©Pioneer Gardenswith pink flowered D. eximea from North America to introduce a more robust habit while retaining the foliage color.

His work continues, and not yet released is Fire Cracker (‘Rekka’), again with finely divided blue-gray foliage and flowers in rose pink which are lightly scented of hyacinths. This is the first in a new range of scented dicentras and is a hybrid of D. peregrina ‘Hien’ and D. eximea. Most similar to ‘King of Hearts’, the flowers of Fire Cracker are darker in color and the foliage more blue – and of course there’s that scent.

Dicentra 'Fire Island - new Japanese dicentra hybrid from Akira Shiozaki. Image: ©Luc Klinkhamer Also look out for Fire Island, not yet released, in very dark red with a dark edge; like the Hearts Series it’s long flowering and easy to grow – but not yet available.

‘King of Hearts’ is a similar plant, with similar parentage, and often assumed to be part of the same series. However, ‘King of Hearts’ has different origins. It was developed over thirty years ago in Washington State by Dr Marion Ownbey. It’s a hybrid between D. peregrina and a plant which is itself a hybrid between D. formosa subsp. oregana from the west coast and D. eximea from the east coast. It features pinkish red flowers are gray foliage.

All these dicentras are fine shade garden plants. And with the addition of fragrance - a first in dicentras – they are sure to be in demand. ‘Burning Hearts’ did well here in Pennsylvania this year, bulking up steadily from small starts, and it’s foliage lit up a dark corner even though the plants were not large.

Gardeners: I think you need them. Nurseries: you’d better stock them. In the US try Pioneer Gardens and Skagit Gardens. In Europe start with De Vroomen.