Corydalis are lovely bulbous plants with ferny foliage and distinct flowers that are well suited to a wide range of garden habitats. The 4-petaled flowers cover a wide spectrum of colors, including blue and coral. They are unusual and tubular, and are often held perpendicular to the foliage. The outer pair of petals has a spur with reflexed tips, and the inside pair discreetly covers the stamens. Grow sun-loving species such as C. cava in a rock garden and shade-loving species such as C. solida in a woodland border or naturalised in the understory.
There are about 450 species, 330 of which are native to China and Tibet. The variable C. solida is found in Sweden, southern Finland to the Urals, central Europe, Spain and Greece. Red and pink forms of C. solida are mostly found in the mountainous region of Transylvania in Romania.
The Dutch nursery Van Tubergen collected good red and pink forms from the Transylvanian Alps about 1925. It named a mauve-pink one ‘G P Baker’ after a famous British mountaineer in the late 19th century. The redder ‘George Baker’ we grow today wasn’t described until around the late 1970s. This corydalis was probably collected by Josef Kupeç and Milan Prasil in 1972.
Unfortunately these bulbs are often misnamed because the green pods drop their fast-maturing seeds close to the parent plant by late spring. The seedlings vary and many nurseries supply tubers formed from seedlings – perhaps without realising how variable they can be. As a result there are wishy-washy impostors masquerading under the ‘George Baker’ and ‘Beth Evans’ names. It is better to buy any form or subspecies of C. solida (sometimes labelled C. transsylvanica) when the flowers are on, and remember that the colour deepens after colder winters – especially with red forms. A trap we feel into a couple of times.
In our garden we have a number of the bulbous varieties derived from C. cava and C. solida. “Cava” refers to a hollow or cave within the bulb. “Solida” just means solid. We would love to keep a broader range but sourcing bulbs or fresh seed has proven to be difficult. Except of course if you live on the other side of the Bass Strait or even better the adjoing property to Janis Ruksan’s bulb nursery in Rozula Latvia.
Distribution and Description:
From an area encompassing the eastern Balkins and north west Turkey, this species bears relatively tall many-flowered spires of palest pink blooms with long spurs and purple snouts. Flowering time is around mid spring.
An interesting side issue regarding this bulb is that one of the earliest collections was undertaken by German pharmacist and botantist Paul Sintenis (1847-1907). Sintensis collected in Armenia, Austria, Cyprus, Germany, Greece and Iran and in the Carribean. We came across his name when researching the background to Iris sintenisii.