Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lathyrus vernus narrow leaf form

Closeup view of Lathyrus vernus naroow leaf form

Lathyrus vernus next to Epimedium rubrum
     A few year ago Kelly Dodson gave me a form of Lathyrus vernus that had much narrower leaves than the usual lathyrus vernus.  For those who are not familiar with Lathyrus vernus, it is a small plant for open woodland areas.  It blooms at this time of the year with nice purplish blossoms, although there are also forms with more reddish, pinkish or whitish blooms.  As you might imagine, I don't care for the lighter pinkish or whitish versions! Lathyrus vernus is not a difficult plant given open shady soil, relatively moist, and not too crowded by other plants.  It forms a bushy mound about a foot high and as wide.  It also self sows slightly so that you can get more plants of it that way.
     When I first came across this plant in nurseries, it did not speak to me because, frankly, it does not look like much in a nursery pot.  Only after it has been in the ground for a few years and allowed to bulk up does its true worth become apparent.  Now I would rate it as one of my top choices for the woodland garden.
     And not only is the usual plant a top choice, but even better, I have found is this narrow leaf form, mainly because of the textural interest it adds to the garden.  As you can see from the pictures above, the narrow, almost grass like leaves make a good contrast to some of the more broad leafed plants that populate a shade garden.  One example of this is the contrast it provides to epimediums.  Other examples might include trilliums, podophyllums, hostas (although I don't grow any hostas), hepaticas, hacquetias, hellebores, and cardiocrinums.  I could envision an open and moist shady bed filled with nothing but cardiocrinums and this narrow leafed form of lathyrus! How cool would that be?
     Kelly recently told me that he has been selecting seedlings of this form for even narrower leaves.  Pretty soon he will have dispensed with the leaves altogether!  Anyway, this plant is, of course, available from Far Reaches Farm.


  1. Lathyrus vernus plays well with others, and doesn’t ask for any attention. It even tolerates rather dry spots in the woodland garden.

  2. Funny little plant for me, blooming now in Portland, but I've had it for years and the clump has stayed the same size. Don't know what it wants. Your's looks great! Cynthia