Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)


Love’s stricken “why”
Is all that love can speak-
Built of but just a syllable
The hugest hearts that break.

Emily Dickinson (1368, year 1876)

The Bleeding Heart is a shade-loving plant. It blooms in April/May and then disappears mid-summer–leaving an open spot in your garden. Marta McDowell warns us to mark them well, lest we accidentally uproot them after they’ve gone.

Their beauty–the pink drooping hearts–and their absence–is like “young love”, she says. And, it seems to be true, since who can’t remember all the great “loves” of our lives that have come and gone when we were young.

I planted two together a few days ago. They’re in partial shade. I’ll need to plant something else around them, possibly Hostas, to make up for their disappearance when they are done blooming.

Though the term “bleeding heart” has come to mean excessive emotion–I prefer to think of it as having a heart at all–and using it, sometimes, to guide us. It’s better to be accused of loving someone or something too much than not loving them at all. I don’t know too many people who complain–Hey, you LOVE me too much!

That’s not to say that “Love” equals “spoil”–spoiling something we love can do it harm–like overwatering a plant or overfeeding a dog (or horse). Love means doing the best for them–even if it’s not what we wanted. And, if you’ve raised children you know, sometimes what is best for them is hard for us.

If you’ve lived and loved, you’ve probably experienced a bleeding heart–an emptiness–a letting go. This is a wonderful flower to symbolize just that thing–all the many, many times our hearts have been broken.

I have a few losses I will think of when I look out at them.

What do you think of the Bleeding Heart? Do you have any experience with them?

Don’t forget to leave a comment here to be entered into the Bouquet Giveaway! Every comment is another entry.

9 responses to “Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)

  1. Paulina use to grow these in her garden. Everytime she’d send me home with a bouquet of flowers I’d always ask her to give me some of these. As a little girl I was very fascinated by them.

    • emilydickinsonsgarden

      That is so cool, Becka–what a good neighbor. I forgot about Paulina. I bet you have LOTS of garden memories from her!! But the pictures of you walking down the road, as a little girl, with a hand full of Bleeding Hearts….pretty sweet.

  2. I think what I like about your blog and garden here is that you’re not just planting flowers and plants, but most of them have a personal association to them. What a peaceful place you are cultivating, a floral essence of your life.

    • emilydickinsonsgarden

      Well, thank you. I’m finding that there’s so much symbolism in a garden–I just never knew. I sometimes read back on the blog entries after they’re posted and find that while I was writing about a flower, like this one, I didn’t even realize how many other things were also being said unintentionally.

      Like this first paragraph: “Marta McDowell warns us to mark them well, lest we accidentally uproot them after they’ve gone.”

      I was just writing what Marta had warned–or was I? Because looking back at it, there is a temptation, once you’ve been hurt by a loss, to uproot the thing entirely and never think of it again–or, at least, to be careless of it. What is that saying–cutting the Gordan Knot?

      Anyway, it would be a mistake in most instances to uproot anything we’ve loved.

  3. I’ve heard the “bleeding heart” also called the “heart of Jesus.” It’s a beautiful flower and it’s interesting that Rebekah was always drawn to it in Paulina’s wonderful garden.

    • emilydickinsonsgarden

      That’s interesting–I didn’t know that about “the heart of Jesus”.

      Paulina did have a wonderful garden. Looking back, I remember her tending it ALL the time. I’m starting to relate to her.

  4. I am new to your blog and am highly addicted already! Here in the Northwest, we are just beginning to see our gardens come to life again.

    I, too, have bleeding hearts, both in my garden and in my life!

  5. emilydickinsonsgarden

    Hi Michaele–my garden is also in the Northwest–Zone 6. My flowers have opened up a bit early because they are of the greenhouse type. I’m starting from scratch, so most of my flowers and trees are from the greenhouse.

    Thanks for joining the discussion. I’m looking forward to your input!

  6. oh these are beautiful. I’m still learning about flowers. what needs light? what needs shade? I’m asounded at all there is to learn

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