PASQUE FLOWERS – EASTER PULSATILLA

A PURPLE PASQUE FLOWER, PULSATILLA VULGARIS (RAISED FROM JELITTO SEED) – THESE REALLY ENJOY THE STONE WALL HOLDING UP THE ALPINE BED, WHERE THEY HAVE GROWN NOW FOR TEN YEARS.

One of the hardiest and sturdiest perennial plants one could ever grow, is still not commonly seen in many North American gardens, and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just because plants are already out of bloom by the time nurseries open up for spring sales, but I encourage each of you who live in USDA ZOne 6 and lower to seek out any and all species and selections of Pulsatilla, commonly called the Pasque flower because of its blooming period, usually around Easter or Passover. This high mountain plant is not only easy to grow, it can be raise from seed as well.

PULSATILLA VULGARIS ‘PERLEN GLOCKE’ RAISED FROM SEED, RETURNS EACH YEAR WITH FLOWERS SO WHITE, THAT THEY CAN SOMETIMES BE DIFFICULT TO PHOTOGRAPH.

I find pulstilla easy to grow from pre-chilled seed (gold-nugget seed) from Jelitto seed in Germany, (versus from regular wild-collected seed, which can be more fussy to pre-chill and stratify properly). It’s not cheating really, it’s just practical – pre-chilled seed is not only easier, it is practically fool proof. I will admit to you however that I have not tried raising these from seed sown indoors, I do use the greenhouse, so that may help, but I would imagine that a careful sowing under lights should work well too. The seedlings are quite sturdy, and even first year seedlings have wintered over in large pots – I have even had them winter over in 4″ pots that I allowed winter over ( i.e. forgot to plant) which spent the winter outdoors. So, yes – very hardy.

PULSATILLA VULGARIS ‘PAPAGENO’, A FRILLED OR DISSECTA FORM.

Early to emerge in the spring or late winter, pulsatilla are often the second flower to bloom in the garden ( following the snowdrops). Their colors stand out against all of the decaying foliage of other plants, which just makes the colors of the petals, and the golden yellow boss of stamens even more noticeable. Relatives of the ranunculus and the anemone ( it’s easy to see the resemblance), pulsatilla are perhaps the sturdiest of the bunch. These are plants that will wait until the snow melts though, which is when you will see their fuzzy new foliage emerging first – like downy feathers. In a few weeks, buds will follow, unfurling long before the crocus and narcissus. Our first bee food for sure, aside from the skunk cabbage in the swamp out back.

PULSATILLA ‘ROTE GLOCKE’ IN ONE OF MY ALPINE TROUGHS. THIS STURDY ALPINE FREEZES SOLID EVERY WINTER WITH NO DAMAGE AT ALL.

With 33 species worldwide, pulsatilla are common in the Rockies and Cascades in the US and Canada, and in the Alps where we have seen some beautiful species in bloom high in the alpine meadows.

Hikers are most familiar not with the flowers of pulsatilla, but with their seed pods, which look like long, feathery fronds, lasting throughout summer and autumn in high, alpine meadows.

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