Thalictrum delavayii is my plant of the summer. I planted it last year at the top of the steps leading up from the kitchen door; so far there is only one main shoot, now nearly seven feet high, like an impossibly delicate tree with lilac leaves, each leaf a flower like a tiny nodding clematis. The cloud of flowers is at eye level as I reach the top step, and from the kitchen window it is as important as the trees beyond, a lilac filter for the view of the rest of the garden.
‘delavayi’ betrays its origin, the mountains of south west China, where Father Jean-Marie Delavay went to convert the heathen and became one of the most industrious plant collectors, with 1500 new species in his bag. ‘Meadow rue’ is the English name for the family; the finely divided leaves, in this case palely glaucous and scarcely significant in the picture, explain the name. The monster hybrd ‘Elin’ proves that bigger is not necessarily better, and the double one, ‘Hewitt’s Double’, that two is not necessarily a higher value than one. Of all the perennials I grow in our perpetual shade this is the most striking and rewarding.