Bartlett on Gardening: Love in Bloom



As we approach the day of hearts and flowers, let’s take a look at some old-fashioned favorites that speak of love.

Woodland native Bleeding Heart (above), Dicentra spectabilis, blooms in late spring. The flowers look just like a string of pink and white valentines. This shade-loving perennial is long lived and carefree. If only it bloomed longer. A similar plant, Dicentra eximia, is less spectacular but blooms from late spring until autumn. The plants are a bit smaller and multiply, forming clumps which can easily be divided.

Another shade lover, Forget-Me-Not, would be a good companion for Bleeding Hearts. This low-growing biennial has blue, pink or white flowers in late spring and early summer. Biennials produce foliage the first season and flowers the following year. Sow the seed directly in early spring this year and next to start the cycle of foliage and flowers.


Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate (left) is new to me, but many seed catalogs are featuring it this year. It is an accent annual which grows four to seven feet tall and five feet wide. The heart-shaped leaves are eight inches long. It blooms from late summer through autumn. The rose-pink flowers are borne along six-inch-long tassels which may be dried. The seeds need three or four weeks in the refrigerator to get ready to germinate. After the cold treatment, you may start them indoors or sow directly in the garden this spring.


​​Love in a Mist (right), Nigella damascena, is a summer-blooming annual. The plants are about two feet tall and bear pale blue flowers which age to sky blue. One can also find seeds for varieties with pink, purple or white flowers. It is best to sow the seeds directly in the garden in early May. The plants are deer-resistant and pollinator-friendly.


Love Lies Bleeding (left) is another dramatic annual. This ornamental member of the amaranth clan was a great favorite of the Victorians. The foot-long, dark red, chenille-textured flowers cascade from five-foot tall plants. The foliage and seeds are edible. Start the seeds indoors six to eight weeks before your spring planting date or sow directly in the garden.

Love in a Puff is an annual vine which grows eight to ten feet tall. It bears small white flowers in summer which morph into pale green lantern-shaped seedpods which can be dried. Start the seeds indoors eight to ten weeks before planting in the garden.


Exotic Love Vine has been around since the 1840s. Growing to 15 feet, it is a classic to train on an arbor. Blooming from midsummer to fall, the tubular crimson flowers ​​age to yellow. This year a new cultivar is available which has yellow flowers that age to white. The seeds need to be soaked overnight before planting. They may be ​​directly sown in the garden or started indoors six weeks before planting.

I never imagined that cottage garden favorites from the 19th century could be used to make a summer garden of love in bloom.

Master gardener Ann Bartlett never lets lack of familiarity with a plant stop her from kissing it over her garden gate...


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