Corydalis solida

Don’t look now, but spring has sprung

Already many signs of early spring in the garden

Leslie Cox

Special to The record

What can I say? It has been a busy month. So it was a tad embarrassing to blurt out, “When did those flowers start blooming?” on a recent walkabout of our garden with a friend. Pretty sure those flowers had not been there the day before.

Wait a minute now. When was my last day in the garden? What day is it?

Ah. The joy of early spring in the garden. There is a multitude of chores which mash all the days one on top of another. My vote goes for more hours in a day rather than messing with daylight savings time. And exactly how does DST help when your day starts and ends in the dark?

Ha! Maybe it was dark when I last skipped through my front garden which would explain how I missed spotting this cute little fumewort, Corydalis solida. It could also be because the incessant rain has enticed me to spend more time indoors, messing around with the seedlings under the grow lights and in the greenhouse.

Whatever. Suffice to say it was a pleasant surprise, not only for a break in the weather, but also to have some pretty spring flowers to show off to a dear friend.

The clusters of mauve-blue, tube-shaped flowers with upswept spurs are really delightful, dangling as they do from stems above grey-green, fern-like leaves. Height is a diminutive 10 inches (25 cm) and spread can become a carpet. The tuberous roots on this plant do have a tendency to wander outward.

Truthfully, I would not mind if the fumewort decides to spread under the Acer campestre (field maple). This is a difficult area for understory plants, having to compete with tree roots and fighting for water. Even our native bunchberry, Cornus canadensis, struggles against this maple. It is taking forever to establish a nice patch.

Some may shudder at mention of a “growing carpet across the landscape” as some plants can quickly get out of hand. However, this member of the Corydalis family is what is called a “spring ephemeral.” It comes up, flowers, sets seed, and dies back…all within the spring months. By summer, it will no longer be showing, leaving a blank slate for a whole new display.

Rather a unique feature…a blanketing blast of colour to enjoy when we need it most. And best of all, it does not create more work for us.


Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at and her column appears every second Thursday in the Record.


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