Made Happy By Simple Things

Dicentra spectabilis

A sure sign of spring around here is when the airy bushes of bleeding hearts appear.  I have been given a few of these old-fashioned plants for Mother's Day over the years.  I plant them next to our door to be sure and spot the dangling beauties as soon as they arrive. This year, my daughter entered them in her Nature Notebook as a gift to me because she knows I love them. I think she does, too.

Did you know that if you gently fold back the skirt of one of the flowers, Princess Di Centra appears?  And there is a story to go along with her, of course.  I learned about it from Sunflower Houses by Sharon Lovejoy. It goes like this:

Once there was a beautiful princess who wandered away from her walled garden and became lost in the darkness of an ancient forest. The princess fell prey to an evil crone angered to have her privacy disturbed.  In an instant, Di was reduced to a fraction of her normal size and entrapped in the satiny pink folds of an oddly-shaped flower.

The old crone cackled happy and told Di that she was to remain forever imprisoned unless discovered and released by an innocent youngling.

Little did the crone know how tempting the Princess would be to any passing child! Only three days passed before a party of riders stopped for water in the forest. Drinking from a stream on bended knee, a boy glanced up, spied the dancing wand tipped by a pink and white heart, and plucked it (as innocent children will do). Short, plump finders folded back Di's voluminous pink skirt, and the lovely princess was saved!
There are other things to discover about bleeding hearts and other flowers in this book.

Mary Oliver has written this wonderful poem about these long-lasting beauties.

The Bleeding-heart by Mary Oliver
from New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2

I know a bleeding-heart plant that has thrived
for sixty years if not more, and has never
missed a spring without rising and spreading
itself into a glossy bush, with many small red
hearts dangling. Don't you think that deserves
a little thought? The woman who planted it
has been gone for a long time, and everyone
who saw it in that time has also died or moved
away and so, like so many stories, this one can't
get finished properly. Most things that are
important, have you noticed, lack a certain
neatness. More delicious, anyway, is to
remember my grandmother's pleasure when
the dissolve of winter was over and the green
knobs appeared and began to rise, and to cre-
ate their many hearts. One would say she was
a simple woman, made happy by simple
things. I think this was true. And more than
once, in my long life, I have wished to be her.

Happy Mother's Day!



  1. *sigh* Just lovely. We really enjoy that sunflower book! Are bleeding hearts perennials? I ask, because mine just started getting smaller? and smaller and I don't see it this year? Perhaps we killed it. :( They MUST be perennials because of what it says in Oliver's poem! ;) What a wonderful idea for a Mother's Day gift. I might have to use that idea for next year.

  2. Thank you for the Mary Oliver poem! I just bought a bleeding heart in the mountains and hope to get it in the ground soon.
    It did start to flower already. Yours are beautiful.

  3. So lovely. Thank you.