A Gardening Journal

Brazen Hussy ranunculus

Not everything in the garden—even mine—can be big and in-your-face.  Small and in-your-face is good too—at least when your face is only a foot or two off the ground and you've got your reading glasses on.

 

And so, on my knees and bracing even lower with an elbow too, I'm close enough to the ground to take in this Lilliputian ranunculus.  And I'm surprised afresh. 

 

ranunculus-brazen-hussy-overall-041711

 

Considering that the cultivar is called 'Brazen Hussy' (on account of the chocolate leaves that contrast so well with the daffodil-yellow flowers), it isn't a surprise at all that I, ever the sucker for the salacious, would have planted a few in 2007.  And because they've shown up every Spring since, it's no surprise that here they are in 2011, eager (but nonetheless still not increased.  They started out three more or less, and that, apparently, is what they're content to remain).

 

Nor is it a surprise that at 6'3" without shoes and with wet hair, I really am on my knees and wearing my reading glasses to get a good look, let alone scratch one under the chin.

 

ranunculus-ficaria-brazen-hussy-w-my-fingers-041711

 

Nor that the plant's prostrate leaves show that "chocolate" can be a synonym for "dirt brown", which means they don't show up well at all in a normal garden bed that's only millimeters beneath them.  (Now if only there were some quarter-inch-high chartreuse-leaved groundcover to underplant them with.  Moss would be a sensation, if only it would volunteer.)

 

But nope, nope, nope, nope, and nope.   Brazen Hussy is a solo act, for just a month or two each Spring.  The plants are dormant by June, but also long out of bloom by then, so who even remembers that they were there at all?  The flowers themselves don't even perform at the height of their season unless right in the spotlight of the sun.  As below, they are firmly, even petulently closed even long after dawn itself has past.  Not until direct sun actually strikes them do they open.  Fussy, fussy, fussy.

 

ranunculus-brazen-hussy-shade-early-morning

 

And did I mention tiny?  That's a lone beech leaf that blew atop one plant in yesterday's wind.  And if I don't weed the green runners of chrysogonum at the left they'll run right over the Hussies by July.

 

The surprise?  Despite that this plant's annual above-ground party is so brief, that the whole thing is so hard to see anyway, that there's nothing to pair it with, that it neither fails entirely nor increases even a jot—and that if ever a stray dog lifted a leg on it the whole colony would be assassinated in the deluge—this little plant with the raucously immoral name is one of my Spring favorites. 

 

It's improbable, it's sassy, it lives life on its own terms not on mine, it comes and goes when it wants, and it puts on a show only when the sun, the center of the entire solar system, has aligned itself correctly.  (It's even got me using it as the start of this whole "Me & My Garden" journal.)  Brazen Hussy has pride with a take-it-or-leave it snap, and I'm very pleased to fall into step and salute.  Or is that applaud?  Or wolf-whistle?  What is the correct way to express one's positive feelings to a brazen hussy anyway?

 

Who wouldn't want to live life (at least for a month or two each year) with a brazen hussy's self-possession, freedom, and confidence?  The plant isn't even as high as my big toe, but it's still a role model.  Brazen Hussy, I may be on my knees and elbows, but I look up to you even so.

 

 

Here's how to show some respect to a few Brazen Hussies in your own garden:

 

 

Latin Name

Ranunculus ficaria 'Brazen Hussy' 

Common Name

Are you calling this hussy common?  The nerve!  That's Bronze-leaf Lesser Celandine to you, sir or madam.

What kind of plant is it?

Spring ornamental perennial, dormant by Summer heat.

Hardiness

Zones 4 to 8.


Habit

The leaves are low to the ground, even prostrate, with flowers on erect little stems to three inches.

Rate of Growth


Matures in only a year.  Very slow to increase.

Size in ten years

Apparently no taller than what they were by Year Two, and scarcely any wider.

Texture

Dense and squat.  Doesn't show up well unless planted en masse.

Grown for

The sheer quirk of it all.  Bright-yellow flowers are a bit too reminiscent of dandelions, but sometimes a bright splash of color in the Spring is just the thing even so.  The impressively deep-purple leaves are so ground-hugging that they aren't visible unless you (shudder) mulch with light-colored gravel.

Flowering season

Late Winter to early Spring.

Culture

Sun and rich moist soil.

How to handle it

Weed so that it doesn't get overrun.  Otherwise care-free.  Doesn't self-seed.  If you have a trough garden, this would be a good plant for it: safe from weeds, and closer at hand for viewing.  Deer-resistant too.

Downsides

Small and not easy to display well, despite its color.

Variants

Several non-weedy cousins are out there, with white flowers, or somewhat large habit, or with green leaves.   The species itself is rampant, so stick to the cultivars.

Availability

Sometimes in the more adventurous local nurseries, also on-line.

Propagation

Division in earliest Spring.

Native habitat

Southern Europe


 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 







 




 

 


 

 

 
 
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