The exquisite Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot) flower in in mid-spring with ethereal white blooms that arise on flower stems held between leaves that are still tightly rolled. The flowers are a pure white that glow in the shade. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me until this fall to plant some pretty Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) bulbs with them. They both bloom at the same time, and the wonderful blue of the bulbs will look great surrounding the white bloodroot.
I grow both the single flowered Sanguinaria canadenis and the double flowering Sanguinaria canadensis f. multiplex. These woodland flowers are unusual in that the flowers come up and start to unfurl before the leaves even open. Each flower stem is held above a securely coiled leaf, which clasps the stem like fingers around a wine glass stem. The petals open and appear to be rising almost directly from the earth. The purity of their petals is breathtaking. After they are done flowering, the leaves with round lobes continue to grow, and will get quite large for a short woodland plant. Unlike some of the more ethereal woodland plants, the leaves stay until fall in my garden. They are just deteriorating now in September and October, especially after our first frosts.
Although beautiful, the flowering time of Sanguinaria is brief. The single flowering bloodroots may only last a week, while the double flowering multiplex form last longer. The doubles are sterile, because some reproductive parts get converted to give more petals. I like to have both in the garden, as the single flowering ones are most useful to pollinators, but the doubles have more showy flowers. Because the bloom time of Sanguinaria is short, I have some Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ (Siberian bugloss) planted in front to flower afterwards. You don’t have to hide the Sanguinaria though, as the broad leaves are attractive, and look good next the feathery texture of ferns or Astilbe. I grow some taller Astilbe to the right and some Athyrium filix-femina (lady ferns) in front of those. Here’s a picture of where the Sanguinaria, Brunnera and Athyrium meet.
It took me until this fall to realize how nice the white blooms of the bloodroot would look if there were some lovely blue flower bulbs accompanying them. In my zone 3 garden, Scilla (squills), Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) and Sanguinaria flower around the middle of May. Both Chionodoxa and Scilla bulbs, which are closely related, flower for about 3 weeks in a lovely blue colour. Although they are all blooming at the same time, it just didn’t occur to me before to plant them together.
I first considered using the pretty Scilla siberica flowers. With those sky blue petals they would make a nice companion plant. They tolerate growing under the trees, too.
Then I thought the Chionodoxa forbesii would better. I decided to plant the Chionodoxa with the bloodroot because they have a small patch of white in the centre of the blue petals, so I think they will coordinate especially well with the gleaming white Sanguinaria. Also, the Chionodoxa flowers face upwards more, while the Scilla hang down. The Scilla are pretty, and still very noticeable as the back of the petals are so blue, but I think that the Chionodoxa with the wider upright petals will display better with the Sanguinaria flowers. After deciding that the glory of the snow bulbs would make the perfect companion planting for the bloodroot, I got to work with my shovel.
I dug holes all around the outer rim of the Sanguinaria group, and placed the Chionodoxa bulbs pointy side up. Then I tossed the soil back in and tamped it down. Altogether I planted 80 glory of the snow bulbs around the bloodroot colony in order to balance out the groups.
I tried to stay outside of the bloodroot root area, but I did accidentally dig one up. The rhizomes are thick and oblong, rather like small carrots, and are a reddish orange color, hence their common name. I could see them already spreading underground by these rhizomes to increase the colony, even though they’ve only been here for 3 years. After I reburied it, I realized that I should have taken a photo of it. I’d already disturbed them enough, so I kept them tucked safely underground.
I created a collage to show the effect of the Sanguinaria canadensis surrounded by Chionodoxa bulbs. There will be more white flowers in the middle, since there were originally 3 double bloodroot and 3 single bloodroot. Both the bulb and the perennial will only flower for a short time in May, but I think they will be very eye-catching as partners. The Sanguinaria and Chionodoxa are compatible, since both can grow in the shade, and luckily they are both hardy in zone 3. These two come from different native areas; Sanguinaria is a woodland plant from Eastern Canada, and Chionodoxa is from alpine areas in the Eastern Mediterranean. Although you wouldn’t find them growing together in the wild, they should make a terrific duo in my garden.
You can see how the double bloodroot and glory of the snow looked the next spring