The Hepatica looks back on a long history of wonderful stories. We want to take you and tell you some of them...
Firstly, I would like to introduce myself: my name is ‘Blaues Wunder’. I’m sorry, my complete name is Hepatica nobilis var. nobilis ‘Blaues Wunder’, for those of you who take naming seriously.
When my finder, who’s the narrator of my story, picked me out from among many others of my peers a few years ago, he was probably impressed by the splendour of my flowers with their large, dark violet-blue sepals and the three consistent equally large leaf lobes.
And of course, I’m a stately plant with a height of ca. 20 cm. That is what I can tell you about my appearance, so you know who you are dealing with. I’d like to tell you what a year in my life looks like:
Let’s start in April, that’s the period when I take up most of my food. The soil is lovely humid, the sun is bringing some pleasant warmth, my roots are spreading and, on my pedicels, the seedheads are ripening with my progeny. In this month, my propagator is helping me by dividing me up, so I can give some divisions which are true to name.
In May, me and my congeners are full in growth and we take on strength to survive the hot months of June and July. At the same time, my seeds are ripening, ready for the ants to spread them all over the garden. The new leaves I formed, are now becoming strong and robust, the old ones are bending towards the soil, where they rest and turn into humus, bringing nutrition into the cycle of the earth..
With the beginning of June, monotony starts to set in, the grass surrounding me is in growth and helps me to stay cool and by bringing morning dew. It’s teeming with all kinds of creatures around me and I must be on the lookout for any beetle or caterpillar who wants to nibble on my beautiful new leaves.
July is warm, often too hot for me, so I spread my leaves flat on the soil, which helps to preserve the last humidity in the soil. But we should be on the lookout again! Now some moulds are growing, and they like to grow on weak leaves which they will use as sustenance.
So, I’m very happy when my gardener makes his round with a fungicide to keep me safe from their attack.
With August come warm days and cooler nights, which I love so much.
Now I’m starting to take up nutrition with my roots again, to prepare myself for winter. I’m incredibly grateful for a small amount of fertilizer on top of my leaves and on the soil.
Even in September and October, I’m still in growth. I’m still taking up food to be stronger, since we can’t predict how long the following winter will be.
In November I’m going into rest. It’s starting to get too cold, sunlight and with it the warmth becomes a rare commodity. My friend, the gardener, improves the soil with a bit of lime, clay granules, loam, and some organic fertilizer. I can prepare myself for the most beautiful time of the year.
December is grey and gloomy, I’ve been covered by leaves, which will protect me from frost and cold winds.
So perfectly taken care of, I’ll sleep for another month, in January I’m starting to become impatient, curious to see what the early Spring will bring. I notice my roots are starting to move, encouraged by the slow warming up of the soil. Gradually, growth is stirring within me.
By the end of February, the first flower buds are shooting up, to see how it looks above the leaves.
March is starting and with this month my yearly fireworks are coming: my pedicels push up from my swollen buds, to unfurl their beautiful sepals. Now I’m wearing my wedding gown, to show to the world how happy I am. Winter has gone! The balmy wind and the first bees caress my flowers, to pollinate the pistils with pollen, starting the cycle of life anew.
I hope, you’ll come to visit me, so you can enjoy the flowery bridal gown of myself and my congeners.
You’re welcome, your liverleaf: “Blaues Wunder“
Jürgen Peters, 2008 November
A liverleaf’s tale continued…
Do you remember me? I do not want to boast but I am quite special. My name is ‘Blaues Wunder’ (Blue Wonder), or to use my full and correct name: Hepatica nobilis var. nobilis ‘Blaues Wunder’.
I am an exceptionally beautiful cultivar, selected from the North European endemic liverleaf species. As evidenced by my three-lobed leaves, I belong to the Triloba series. Completely different from the species of the Angulosa series, which are characterized by their larger, five-lobed leaves and especially by their horizontally growing buds.
The Romanian side of my family, from the Angulosa series (Hepatica transsilvanica), keep themselves a bit away from us, that is why they looks so different. Big, stately, growing just as well in dryer soils…Oh, I am getting ecstatic.
During the last couple of years, I attended a lot of our “family reunions”, that is how I came to know there are a lot of different forms and geographical varieties in our family. There are those with wonderfully marbled leaves, for example. A characteristic most often seen in our relatives from the Pyrenees. And one of my aunts (Hepatica nobilis var. glabrata) from Scandinavia has no red pigments at all, that makes her a true albino in green. If I wanted to meet even more special relatives, I should travel a bit further. My parents maintain a lively correspondence with America, where a few relatives are living (Hepatica nobilis var. acuta and Hepatica nobilis var. obtusa). It is said they have a lot more hair on their flower- and leafstalks. It seems the leaf cover through which they have to come up in spring is a lot thicker there, so the hairs help the leaves to push through.
Excitingly, we also got a message from an uncle in Korea. He told of a giant in his family, who lives solely on an island (Hepatica maxima). As tall as 25 centimetres and with its unusually large leaves and seed heads, it is a very remarkable species. In Korea you can also find the elegant Hepatica nobilis var. insularis. The leaves with their incredibly beautiful patterns, that die down in winter, are worth being highlighted here.
While we are on the topic of my Asian relatives, there is also our small Chinese grandmother (Hepatica henryi). She appears to be closer related to our Romanian cousins, since her small leaves are also fivelobed. This lady is very elegant. On a well-known mountain another of the Angulosa series is growing (Hepatica yamatutai). This one is a lot bigger, with very hairy leaves and the underside of the leaves are crimson coloured.
Ever since my childhood, I was told the story of a lost relative. And now he was rediscovered in Central-Asia. Hepatica falconeri belongs to the five-lobed species but is often considered to be the archetype of Hepatica.
Actually, I think he has little in common with us – very deeply divided leaves and very elegant flowers. I hope he does not think himself superior…
But we are the proudest of our Japanese connections. In that country the Hepatica’s have been held in high esteem since the first century CE. There are even cities that carry this flower in their coat of arms.
The colours and forms of those family-members are a lot more variable than those of the species in our native woods. Enough so to make me a bit jealous. But on the other side I have been told that a lot of these Asian species are not strong enough to withstand our winters. They are just not used to our muddy/wet winters.
Oh well, that just means they must get the best place in the garden We, the locals, are not so demanding. It would be even better if we could combine our best characteristics. Just like in nature, where the strongest reproduce and where new adaptations help our survival. But, to that end, we need help since we are too far apart for the bees or the wind to help us. That is why I talked to some gardeners…
And for sure, the first attempts were made decades ago by a Swedish person. In Germany, the first crosses were made between Hepatica nobilis var. pubescens and Hepatica transsilvanica. The wonderful children from that cross are often grouped as Hepatica x euroasiatica. Bi-coloured flowers, quick to increase and just as strong as my indigenous sisters and brothers.
When Hepatica transsilvanica is used as one of the parents, the progeny is very vigorous and garden worthy, so it is clear that is the future. The focus of my breeder for example is the hybridisation of Hepatica transsilvanica with the wonderful Japanese forms and colours (Hepatica x trans-japonica). Not because we, as indigenous plants, are not beautiful, but you should have seen the corner with the young people at our last family reunion. Big, good looking forms with bright pink or dark blue flowers. With healthy leaves and they withstand our Northern German weather perfectly. I look forward to the next reunion, to see if the family will have grown some more…
I hope to have sparked your interest in me and my extensive family. When you are in the neighbourhood, please visit us in our Hepaticagarden in the real North.
You’re welcome, your liverleaf: ‘Blaues Wunder‘