Corydalis, member of the Papaveraceae family, common names, Fumewort, Bird in a Bush.
Looking up Corydalis on the RHS website and you could think that you have found the ideal plant.  It would appear to grow in any well drained soil, whatever the pH,  thrive in any compass aspect, relish full sun but tolerate partial shade and provide colour at a time of the year little else favours.  So when I was looking for a Collection to visit on a trip to Northumberland in late February it was an obvious choice.

Professor Brian Whitton holds an extensive Collection at his home in Durham City and rounding the bend in the road I no longer needed to look for the house number; his drive is covered in pots of specimens.  I was a little early for the best display, but there was still an impressive selection of the delicate flowers on show, especially aptly named C. ‘Christmas Day’ which has been flowering since December.

Corydalis 'Christmas Day'

Plants are grown in pots and the open ground; the architect of Brian’s house must have predicted a plantsman living there.

One of the interesting snippets I picked up was that the plants will often flower around the edge of a pot – the plant grows underground until it reaches an obstacle, in nature a rock, in cultivation the pot, and then sends up a shoot.  Several of the pots were showing this phenomenon.

Corydalis darwasica

Another specimen caught my attention for its Tolkein inspired name.  Apparently it is one of a series of such names.

Corydalis solida 'Rivendell'

Brian’s collection should be at its flowering best for his Open Days on Saturday March 31st and Sunday April 1st 2012.
Post Script – March 15th 2012, because the flowering is so far advanced, Brian is holding two extra Open Days on Saturday and Sunday 24th/25th March.

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