AH, the joys of horticultural humour! It’s enough to make you take runner bean cuttings or bury your nose in a dahlia to sample its wondrous perfume!
Ha! How to get had in the botanical box of tricks. Well, there was I getting quite animated that the seeds of a pasque flower, botanically Pulsatilla vulgaris, which I had collected and sown from one plant last summer had started to germinate.
I spied three tiny seedlings in a corner of a tray and – by all accounts – the maiden leaves looked very much like those of these April delights with their downy buds, boss of vivid gold stamens and furry collars directly below the petals. The seeds are a bit challenging so I was feeling proud of my achievement.
How could I be so fooled? As the plants got bigger I was beginning to have doubts and now I know for sure that if they are pasque flowers then I’m Elvis reincarnated.
It turns out the seedlings are some type of strawberry – fragaria – probably one of the wild sorts which no doubt blew into the tray along with its two pals and decided to put down roots.
Indeed, on of the diminutive plantlets has already grown two runners, so clearly it intends hanging around for a while.
As for those pulsatillas – not a sign, not a glimmer! They are not always easy from seed, though I have had some success in the past. In addition, they are notoriously tricky to bring on a second year, unless conditions are pretty well A1 perfect.
The Pasque Flower – pasque means Easter in Hebrew – is an April favourite of mine, even though I try to will those gorgeous six-petalled blooms to stay perfect much longer than their oh-so-short tenancy.
There is, however, a later bonus – the arrival of fluffy seed heads that often linger for weeks, unless blown off-course by a summer gale or two. Later, these can be collected and sown for flowering the following year . . . especially if you’d like some delicious strawberries!
All pulsatillas are low-growing, enjoy a gritty, sunny home with a touch of lime, detest being moved and seem free of ailments.
Of the vulgaris family – a UK native – the straight species comes in shades of purple, Alba glistens white and Rubra is in rich red.
The white-with-brown-shading European Pulsatilla vernalis is the ultimate in beauty and slightly lower growing, but will quickly fall victim to winter wet unless you add plenty of grit around its stem.
As for those strawberries, I shall be kind to them, allow them to fruit . . . and wonder what other tricks my garden is about to deliver!
■ Pasque flowers and not! Top – a dazzling array of pulsatillas from my garden a year ago; centre left and right – Pulsatilla Rubra and Alba; above – most definitely not a pasque flower, much more probably a wild strawberry, complete with a pair of runners.