It’s time to pull together my previous meanderings about this plant and try to write something serious about it. But first, here’s the time lapse:
Let’s get the botanical stuff out of the way: Glaucidium palmatum is a native of the northern Japanese islands and is a rhizomatous herbaceoous perennial, first described in 1845. It’s in a genus of its own, with only the one species, and there are still arguments about which family it belongs to. So, botanically, it’s a bit of an outlier.
I acquired my plant two years ago, by which time it was probably two years old, and this chimes with the web-based advice that it takes about four years to establish itself and flower. It can take a lot longer, apparently. By sheer chance, I seem to have given it conditions that suit it – humous-rich damp soil with a bit of shade (it’s a woodlander, after all). I’m growing it in a bed beside the old mill – and there’s a good deal of brick fragment and lime mortar in the soil, though whether that is good or bad, I don’t know.
One of the reasons that the (few) nurseries offering it describe it as ‘rare’ would seem to be that it’s not at all easy to reproduce. Apparently it hates being disturbed (though I dug mine up by mistake, and it seems to have forgiven me) and its woody rhizomes don’t take kindly to being sliced up into separate plants. So it’s seeds or nothing. If you are going to try growing it from seed (I’m not – I’m useless where seeds are concerned), this discussion on the Scottish Rock Garden Club forum makes a good starting point. Take note of the wise words of Ian Christie, who runs one of the best gentian nurseries in Scotland, and knows all there is to know about raising things from seed.
Equally, you should take a look at this post by Jim Jermyn, whose retirement from Edrom nurseries I have long regretted, as he’s one of the best primula growers and experts around.
And finally, take a virtual trip to Japan and have a look at the wood poppy in its native setting.
I can’t yet add anything to the wisdom of the experts, as it’s early days for me with this plant. I did note somewhere that rabbits are partial to a snack of Glaucidium – that thought fills me with horror.