Dracunculus vulgaris


This is a spectacular frost hardy perennial from Crete. The photograph is a plant I have been growing in a raised bed about a metre from a hedge of trees for the last decade. It grows about 90-120cm (3-4 ft) high with marbled foliage and, for a short period, a large maroon, verging on black, spathe. It may well be the largest flowering structure that blooms in this part of Ireland that is completely hardy. The price to pay is an unpleasant smell but this only lasts 24-48 hours (we are surrounded by fields are used to that!) and is surely worth it for the dramatic structure as well as the beautiful leaves (I know of some growers who grow it only for the tropical looking foliage.)
Surprisingly easy to grow in a sunny or shady spot with fertile, well drained soil. It starts emerging in spring, sometimes mid-winter) produces the spathe around May/June and the foliage usually persists until October/November.

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