Wood Sorrel – Oxalis

Most of us know only too well the pink Oxalis floribunda of cottage gardens more popularly called Wood Sorrel. It will sow its own seed rather too freely and often becomes more of a nuisance than a pleasure in the garden. But there are several species of this tuberous-rooted race that have immense beauty. They have a flowering season extending from May until mid-November and are of the utmost value on the rockery and in a fairly shady position in the shrubbery or under woodland trees.

They enjoy best a cool, leafy soil, fairly moist but by no means waterlogged. If sufficient leaf mould is not present, then work in quantities of peat or rotted manure. September is the right time for planting, the tubers being planted only just beneath the soil surface. The dainty November-flowering Oxalis variabilis, also a most suitable plant for the rockery should be planted in April. All the Oxalis will enjoy a liberal mulching with peat or leaf mould during October.

SPECIESWood Sorrel - Oxalis

  • Oxalis adenophylla. So inexpensive to buy and yet so rarely seen. From South America, and bearing its rosy pink flowers on but 2-in. stalks throughout early summer. This species appreciates some limestone in the soil – it seems to like a leafy soil, but one that is not acid.
  • O. Bowieana. Like a rock-rose in form and bearing its bright rose flowers with their attractive golden centres throughout June and July. Found in its natural state on Table Mountain, South Africa, and so it must be given a warm, sunny position and a soil containing plenty of grit.
  • O. brailiensis. From Brazil, and so requires a warm pocket in the rockery where it will receive full sunshine and some slight protection. Bears most arresting little blooms of deep wine red. I have this growing with several plants of Ramonda Nathaliae, with its bright lavender-blue flowers. The combination is particularly delightful throughout June.
  • O. chrysantba. From Chile, and quite an amazing plant, setting no seed but being increased by its root growth rather like an Alstroemeria. Not entirely hardy so should be planted near a path or stone where its roots can run beneath and so obtain protection in this way. The very dwarf blooms are of purest golden yellow.
  • O. Deppei. From Mexico, and the exception to the rule of shallow planting. The tubers should be planted in beds of almost complete leaf mould 6 in. deep. Bears flowers of an unusual brick red colour from June until late August. The foliage is also of a captivating green and purple.
  • O. enneaphylla. A native of the Falkland Isles and a superb plant, the large waxy white cup-shaped blooms having a distinct green centre. In bloom throughout the summer.
  • O. lobata. Losing its leaves in June when it should be divided, this Oxalis produces its bloom in the manner of a Colchicum in September when it produces masses of golden yellow flowers. It needs the same treatment as 0. Bowieana.
  • O. variabilis. Produces its clear shell pink flowers during November and planted with Crocus speciosus or asturicus will provide a most pleasing combination during the dullest days.

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