The Chinese meadow rue has been steadily working towards this moment. My favourite of first buds open and the majority yet to come. The plants grow close to the path and stand between the veranda and the garden. Deliberately, so that we are able to take in their delicacy and for the veil they draw between the immediate and the beyond.
Thalictrum ‘Splendide White’ is the albino form of its equally beautiful parent Thalictrum ‘Splendide’ which is mauve and yellow anthered. The white form is pale in all its parts. A clean, bright white with palest greenish-yellow anthers and apple green foliage which is as fine and as easy on the eye as maidenhair fern. Awakening later than most and coming into its own once its cousins have already peaked, the refined nature of its growth makes easy company, spearing through Bowles’ Golden Grass and providing a foil for the black Iris chrysographes that it goes on to eclipse. It is a good companion, taking very little room at ground level and light on its feet in the ascent. This year has seen it rising to six feet with midsummer moisture.
Though I know Thalictrum minus var. hypoleucum from the open woods of the Tokachi Millennium Forest in Hokkaido, I have never seen the Chinese meadow rue in the wild. I imagine they favour similar conditions in retentive ground in woodland glades or forest edges. Here our rich soil and the microclimate of company helps to emulate the coolness at the root that they desire. Teamed now with the dark thimbles of Sanguisorba officinalis ‘Red Thunder’ and – where I’m trying to keep it within bounds – the white willow herb, a little staking to prevent a topple once their flowers are fully open and weighting the stems keeps them holding the vertical.
Look into their wiry cage and countless perfectly spherical buds each hover in their own space forming, en masse, a pale and luminous cloud. Opening gradually from the inner parts of the veil, the pea-sized flowers cup long anthers that are thrust forward and hint at green. Though you might think its delicate nature would indicate an ephemeral presence, ‘Splendide White’ is anything but, the plants returning reliably come spring to spangle this part of the garden for four to six weeks of quiet glory.
Words: Dan Pearson | Photographs: Huw Morgan
Published 11 July 2020