Aconitum napellus

Aconitum, monkshood or wolfsbane, is a handsome, if sinister, plant which brings much needed blue to the garden in late summer when yellow can be too dominant. A. napellus is a fine species from east Europe and Asia much like a delphinium in habit – a hardy perennial with erect, tapering flower spikes 4 feet (1.2 m) tall, and plenty of glossy, finely cut leaves. The flowers are inky blue with hooded upper petals which give an air of mystery. There are several interesting varieties, of which the dark violet ‘Bressingham Spire’ is outstanding, and there is an unusual pale pink form called ‘Carneum’, but in pink the plant tends to lose its essentially secretive character. The aconite is a dangerously poisonous plant, particularly the root, which should be handled with great care and much washing of hands.

Aconites must have moisture, but given this are easy to grow in any soil in sun or light shade: they will even grow in rough glass, an addition to one’s collection of plants for a flowery meadow.

If, after a few years, the flower stems grow weaker, divide the plant in spring and replant with manure. Plant in groups of three, five or seven plants, 18 inches (45 cm) apart.

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