Fair Maids of France
Ranunculus aconitifolius flore-pleno
The single white flowered Ranunculus aconitifolius was, like so many other small white flowers, in Elizabethan times known as "Bachelor's Buttons" and was widely cultivated up to the beginning of the twentieth century. It was however the double flowered form known as "Fair Maids of France" (sometimes 'Fair Maids of Kent') which was the most highly sought after and was widely grown at the end of the sixteenth century. According to legend Fair Maids of France was brought to England by Huguenots fleeing from the St Bartholemew's Day Massacre in 1572.
The plant is a long lived perennial, and is propagated by root cuttings
of the fleshy claw-like root. The foliage which is deeply cut and a very deep
green in colour appears in spring and grows to about 30cm in height. The pure
white tiny pom-pom flowers are borne in large numbers on branched stalks above
the clump of leaves.
'Fair Maids of France' is today a very great rarity, and was thought to have been lost to cultivation ....... however it does survive in some gardens! Our original plant arrived in the mail in 1970, wrapped in newspaper in a padded envelope together with a note from Col. Emmerson simply saying "My wife wants you to have a root of this". This plant, a rare gift indeed, is one of the most valued plants in our garden ........ sentimental or what!
Like most of the Buttercup family 'Fair Maids of France' grows best in rich loam in conditions resembling open pasture land. It seems to grow in full sun or in shade, and does best in moist conditions. Once the plant has flowered it dies back and disappears from sight for another year. During the dormant season it is prone to damage from slugs, and the root will rot away if soil conditions are too wet.
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