When my mother was alive I was always sending her plants to grow in her northern garden. I was working at wholesale nurseries at the time and was able to get some of the less common plants for her. I sent many types of plants for the steep border which was at the front of the house. Many plants prospered and were totally happy there and a few struggled. The one plant she loved the best was the Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris). She loved the big purple blooms and then latter the silky seed heads which lasted a long time.
Pusatilla vulgaris is just one of about 35 species of Pasque flower which all live in the northern hemisphere. This plant grows in areas of Great Britain(East Anglia), Sweden to Finland and into the Ukraine. It generally grows in dry grassland areas as well as in chalky soils. There are other species which are known but slightly different in form. One of the most common of these is Pulsatilla halleri which often hybridizes with other species.
Pulsatilla have several common names. Pasque Flower refers to when this plant generally flowers, at Passover(Easter), another name ‘Danes Blood’ is because these flowers are said to grow where Danes shed their blood. Pulsatillas belong to the Ranuculaceae family and they resemble other famous members of the family like Anemone. At one time they were called Anemones and are sometimes listed as a subgenus, in older books you will see this occurance.
Pusatilla vulgaris is a tough plant which can live in a variety of places and temperatures. My mother lived in an area which goes down to -40c(-40f) regularly and the plant thrived just as well as it does here where it rarely goes below -10c(14f). Here I see it growing in the rocky slope of Terrace Garden at Government House as well as in the fantastic alpine/rock garden at Beacon Hill Park. Even in the Novitiate Garden at St Ann’s Academy there is one in the border under the veranda.
Growing Pasque Flowers is quite easy, they like a spot with good drainage and average soil. They need plenty of water in their growing season during the spring and early summer and less when they become more dormant during later summer and autumn. In places where it does not freeze or snow it is important for them to be in areas where water can drain away easily. They need full sun except in very southern areas where they would prefer some shade during the scorching afternoons. I have seen them growing here in full sun as well as in very shady areas.
Each Pulsatilla vulgaris can grow to be 30cm(12in.) tall and as wide with the ability to produce many flowers every year. These plants produce a woody root and can not be divided. Pulsatilla are grown as container subjects, in rock and alpine gardens, perennial borders, early spring features, deer resistant gardens and used in native and woodland settings. To increase your crop you will can sow the seed as soon as it becomes ripe. It needs to go through several months of cold before it will germinate, therefore sow it outside in a well marked place. The seed is viable even in very cold climates as long as it has a good coat of snow to protect it.
More on Pusatilla vulgaris and it’s forms:
A page on the double form ‘Papageno’:
some great pictures and advise on this page:
Until we meet again on this flowery path…