Oakleaf Hydrangea bloom
I am trapped in a stay-home-produced time warp. There is the younger-me that began this garden, and there is the today-me (sometimes known as Mr. Know-it-All) conversing with Whipper-Snapper. I call my younger self names for he is over 30 years younger than I.
“You need to lighten up. I did not begin gardening until I was in my fifties. I, for the most part, was self-taught. Yes, I know the old saw about he who is self-taught has a fool for a teacher. I happen to think I have done a great job with my garden, so why not leave me alone and let me enjoy what I have created? And, just where were you when you were really needed all those years?”
“Whoops! I did not mean my presence to be criticism. Far from it. I greatly admire your work over past years. You have created a place-of-peace garden, a healing place for body and soul, which I would not want to be without. Thank you. What say we take a walk together in our garden and see it through each other’s eyes?”
“The Oakleaf Hydrangea you transplanted on the hillside many years ago has performed well. A great selection placed among the limestone ledge with its clay soil. So many large white conical blooms and felted leaves, with winter time bare stems of peeling cinnamon. I cleaned out deadwood, did a slight nip and tuck operation, finally cleaning out all weeds beneath the shrub. Looking a bit open and bare now.”
“As the native hydrangea was maturing I was surprised to see seedlings of wildflowers moving in beneath the shrub. Seemed as though all my wildflowers wanted to get into the act. There were Jacob’s Ladders, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Wood Poppy, Woodland Phlox, and Hepatica filling the space in a riot of color and texture. Then I had my gardening activities curtailed and more aggressive plants moved in and crowded them out.”
“What say we put back that riot of color and kick it up a notch? This year your volunteer Columbine seem to be mostly some shade of purple. Let’s pick the darkest shade and transplant a couple beneath the hydrangea.
“Hold on. You, of all people, know I am not crazy about the color purple.”
“Hear me out. Let me go on and complete my design concept using plants in the garden.”
Mumbling softly beneath upfront thoughts: “Like I have a lot of choice?”
Superb Lily, Turks Cap lily, Lilium superbum.
“Let’s take a couple of darkest purple Columbine, then follow up with that white-blooming hardy geranium as a background. Where it is presently located deer eat it back just as it comes into bloom. Perhaps they will leave it alone if they have to work for it. Then we select three of those Jack-in-the-Pulpit seedlings with dark chocolate markings. You with me thus far?”
“Then we walk over here and select a seedling of hardy geranium ‘Coffee’ that has darkest mahogany colored large leaves. Next up we need some later color, so let’s move three of the superbum lilies in orange with chocolate freckles. Next to the lilies and completing the area we use Branched Bug Bane to lead along those stones and ferns. It is your favorite bug-bane. Then further up the hill and across we add two more bug-banes with their white fuzzy candles of bloom.”
“Sounds pretty ambitious to me. You up to all that digging and toting, old man? I will not be around to help you with that one.”
“Well, it won’t all happen in one day. Some today, another tomorrow, but I can get it done. In fact, if we both work together I know it will all become reality. After all, what would I do without you and all you experience over past years? Without you I would not be who I am today.”
Having last smart remark as usual: “Oh, so now you are going to blame me for you?”
If you garden with limitations you are in my book.
Frond of Japanese Painted fern in Spigelia marilandica, Indian Pink
If you have shade in your garden, you have ferns. It is just one of those things that “is”. No matter where you transplant them to your shade garden, no matter the companion they always look good. Just looking at the green of a fern lowers your temperature by 10 degrees. They are cool in every sense of the word.
A Fern by Any Other Name
One of the few drawbacks to the fern family are the names. Many of the more unusual and desirable species ferns have names no one can pronounce without a master’s degree in botanical Latin and often the binomial name is as long as the fern is tall. But, in spite of the stumbling blocks in remembering a name, I manage to keep coming up with a new fern for my garden each year. Funny, that after 30 plus years of shade gardening I still do not have “enough” ferns.
Making a List
Parsley fern with old foliage of Hellebore
I have been making a list of ferns that fascinated me over the past few years, thinking I will find them at a local garden center. But, since most garden centers seem to order their wholesale from the same suppliers, the same more common ferns kept popping up. I finally found a grower who had much of what I was seeking, in one gallon sizes. When ordering you usually receive a quart size plant and I am getting too old for that kind of patience.
Checking it Twice
My list consisted of ferns I already have in the garden and want more in different locations. Then there were the ones I saw in gardens I had visited and made notes. I have a couple of books on ferns and there are quite a few dogeared pages with sticky notes. I seriously doubt I will ever have them all, but that is OK. I am having almost as much fun tracking each one on the list down, then purchasing it for my garden, as I do growing the fern.
So, which ferns did I purchase? I picked up 3 each of the following ferns.
Christmas fern on mossy rock at edge of stream.
In the “More of” category there was the Walking Fern (Camptosorus rhizophyllus) and Male Linear fern (Dryopteris filix mas Linearis).
In the native fern line-up there was Dryopteris championii, Champion’s Wood fern, Dryopteris clintoniana or Clinton’s Wood fern, Cystopterisd bulbifera ‘Crispa’ or Crested bulblet fern, and Osmunda cinnamomea the Cinnamon fern. Finally, a hybrid Asplenium ebonoides, the Dragontail fern.
In the non-native department I brought home Athyrium filix-fema ‘Victoria’, a Lady Victoria fern, the Dryopteris tokyoensis or Tokyo Wood fern, and Polystichum tsus-simense the Korean Rock fern.
I wish I had photos of each one to show you so you could become as fascinated with ferns as am I.
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Mother Nature Naps
Hellebore niger, the Christmas Rose. This one will age to pinkish-tan
Mother Nature seems to have a hard time getting out of bed for spring this past winter. She keeps waking up and hitting the snooze button for just one more week. Not that she hasn’t behaved that way in the past. We who garden here are well aware of her groggy, grumpy, nature; her reluctance to get up and get a move on for spring celebrations.
While Mother Nature Naps
As in all relationships, sometimes you simply recognize that is the way things are and you make adjustments accordingly. In my garden I simply choose perennials and bulbs that can perform without her fully awakening. So, let her sleep in. I am ready to begin a new gardening season. With or without her.
This past winter has been the worse I have experienced in my garden over the past 30 plus years. There is not a single hellebore leaf that is not completely brown and dried out. Normally some get burned by cold winds when soil frozen so they cannot get moisture to replace what the wind is pulling from them. This year it is not some, but all. Epimediums have also experienced the winter burn and all the foliage must be cut back to mulch level before the blooms begin to push up through the leaf litter. Best to get the old ratty foliage removed before the fresh blooms break dormancy.
I began taking one area at a time in the garden with knee pad, clippers and rake, cutting back everything that does not look good before new green noses begin to appear. I raked lightly and picked up all debris to be move to the compose pile. Looks as though cleanup will take about another week of good afternoon weather to complete the project. We won’t get that many days in a row, but I will get the garden cleaned up.
Helleborus x garden hybrid pushing up through the leaf litter.
Down in the leaf litter and mulch I am finding hellebores pushing up and beginning to open. As I cut away the old foliage I see new foliage getting ready to push up into the light. Thus far I have been rewarded for my crawling about with garden hybrid hellebore blooms of sunshine yellow, white with red spots, clean white, almost black and custard-apricot, along with a picote or two. Hellebore niger, the Christmas rose in both single and double forms opens a pure white and in some cases ages to pink.
The smaller sized bulbs can give a large show this time of the year. My clumps of Galanthus, Snowdrops, are almost all up and in bloom now, including the newest ones transplanted last fall. Some I have had long enough that they have formed nice sized clumps, and seed has taken hold to produce scattered plants throughout the woodland garden.
Winter aconite is a favorite and has taken to seeding into a path where it seems to want to stay. To keep it from getting trampled once it has completed bloom, it will get a new home in the garden. Perhaps with Iris reticulata for a blue-purple and yellow combination.
My Prized Possession
Adonis amurensis, my favorite late winter blooming perennial. Must have with hellebore.
The plant I enjoy most, outside of my hellebore collection, is Adonis amurensis. The feathered foliage, bright yellow waxy petals of large size for the plant, all come together to make me stop and admire like no other plant in my garden.
Unexpected is to be Expected in Gardening
I had intended to talk more about my Arisaema collection. There should have been three more species of Jacks to emerge this past week. But, I suppose the unexpected should be expected in gardening. What happens at a certain time for years, does not always happen when the following year. Arisaema candidissimum happened right on time, but A. consanguineum silver striped form remains asleep along with a late rising dwarf form of A. tortuosum.
Arisaema candidissimum, the Candy Jack, may be right on time with its bloom, but this year it decided to face a different direction. Last year it was a perfect display with the open bloom backing toward the path. This year it has turned its back and faces directly away from the path. No one seems to know why this happens. I don’t think it had anything to do with me, or if it did Candy Jack did not leave a note before turning is back to me. Perhaps it is just to keep the unexpected continued.
While waiting for the other two species of Arisaema to emerge there are plenty of other plants in bloom.
Shrubs in Bloom
There is no shortage of good shrubs for both foliage and bloom in the shade garden. I have tried quite a few over the years and not all were great performers. Some are now long deceased or I tired of how one looked and performed and removed it to the debris pile. What remains are what I enjoy most (until I find “The Next One”)
I have been learning about, collecting and adding deciduous azalea to my gardens for a few years now. There has been a heavy emphasis on the native aspect. Learning that one can have a native deciduous azalea in bloom from April through September is quite an insensitive to collect and grow.
A favorite native cultivar azleaa
While there are several azalea in bloom now, some with brighter more eye-catching color, I believe ‘Ribbon Candy’ is my favorite of the moment. It is the first year for this azalea to bloom in my garden. Blooms are white, trumpet-shaped and have a red-pink border to each petal. Fascinating detail.
Dward sized gold foliage oakleaf hydrangea.
Oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia) is a constant element throughout my gardens. I have quite a few named cultivars in addition to the species. I collected and grew the species for some years and have added the double flowering form ‘Snowflake’, along with the dwarfs ‘Pee Wee’, Munchkin, and Little Honey with the gold foliage.
Perennials in Bloom
Our most showy native perennial for shade gardens
If I could have only one perennial it would have to be Pink Root/Worm Root (Spigelia marilandica) . It is our most showy native perennial in bloom with tube shaped blooms of scarlet-red topped by a yellow flare. Foliage is never bothered by deer or disease. Stands up to drought. Slow to grow into showy clumps, but worth every year until it lights up a path through the shade garden.
For all that did not happen as expected, there certainly is plenty to see that arrives according to my expectations.
Exotic Garden Denizens Continues
Arisaema continue to emerge and fascinate me to no end. Watching the species open is like watching an umbrella being pushed open. All the parts are in the tube-like stem. Blooms begin to open first, then as they mature foliage rises above the bloom opening like spokes of an umbrella. One bloom to the stem, but what a bloom! The species emerging now tend to be larger in size once they are fully up and unfolded. Some will reach 4 feet or more in height. Others, it is the width that impresses.
This species has been in my garden
Arisaema concinnum unfolding
for some years now. While having to move the tubers last year I found that it reproduces by stolons. There were runners that ended in small tubers forming spokes around the central tuber. I missed some tubers while transplanting and see I now have more plants in the original location.
This species can be highly variable depending upon the original location. My stand has brown striped bloom with a nice long pointed tip about 6 inches long. The foliage unfolds with strong veins o the upper side and dark green. The individual leave have short drip-tips. Each stand right at 4 feet in height.
This species of Arisaema is more variable than a chameleon with an identify crises. It is the most widespread species across Asia. I have two forms of it in my gardens. The first has a pale green bloom with darker green stripes and a long thread-like tip to the spathe. The individual leaves can be up to 13 in number and have a strong mid-rib that ends with a very long thread-like drip tip. Usually about 3 feet in height and sometimes need a bit of support such as growth through shrubs where they seem at home.
Arisaema consanguineum Silver Stripe is a naturally occurring form that comes true from seed. It is quite vigorous in producing more of itself in the form of offsets from stolons. Very attractive with 13 somewhat wide blue leaves with a silver stripe down the middle. Each leave ends in the long thread-like leaf tip that hold a crystal drop of moisture in the mornings. The bloom is green with darker green stripes. It is next to last in order of emerging arisaema in my gardens.
This species happens to be among my favorites. The bloom, or inflorescence, emerges first and opens to a deep, rich, red-brown, striped over white like a seersucker suit. It has a sharp tip with somewhat of a curve adding to the grace of the bloom. Leaves are very large in relation to the height. Immature leaves are not divided and resemble a heart in outline. Mature leaves are 3 to a stem, are glossy in finish, and resemble something from a tropical jungle.
And, I am waiting for more species to emerge in my gardens.
Our native Jack-in-The-Pulpit, green form
I cannot explain why, but I have long been fascinated by the exotic garden denizens known as the Arum family. If they were a TV show they would be the Adams Family.
Aroids come from a very large family of over 2,500 species from both the tropical and temperate world. You probably are already familiar with quite a few such as Calla Lilies, Philodendron, and Alocasia (Elephant Ears). While those are tropical and will not survive in the open garden here, there are quite a few genus and species that will perform in the mid-west shade garden.
There are several species and cultivars of Arum available, but the Black Calla, or A. italicum is the most familiar. it is a backward plant in that it emerges in September and grows during the winter forming large arrowhead-shaped leaves. It bloom in May with large blooms resembling colonial candle reflectors. The blooms and foliage melt away into dormancy and then a tall nude stalk emerges with orange-red berries.
Sauromatum venosum, the Voodoo Lily, or sometimes called Mr. Stinky, is a novelty plant that lending itself to 8th grade level jokes related to body functions. For about 3 days from opening of the inflorescence it emits a strong odor of not-so-pleasant fragrance attracting flies and beetles and butterflies. The “bloom” quickly disappears, followed by a pause of about 45 days and then an tall tropical umbrella at the top of a mottled stem emerges resembling something from the jungle floor. Two distinct phases for double the fun.
this genus excites me most and I have been collecting species and selections for years. What we think of as a bloom is, in reality, an inflorescense or modified leaf. The blooms are hidden down in the tube below the spathe and are quite insignificant.
The genus Arisaema has about 150 species. At least 50 to 75 will do just fine in mid-west gardens. The most well-known local Arisaema is known as Jack-in-the-Pulpit. We also have the species A. dracontium or Green Dragon. From there one can collect for years to come.
Arisaema ringens is first to emerge each year in my gardens. Blooms emerge first and resemble a chubby faced cobra in purple-brown. Foliage soon follows and forms a flat plane of 3 large leaves looking newly waxed.
Arisaema triphyllum is our treasured local Jack-in-The-Pulpit. There is a large amount of variance in appearance from one locale to another. Inflorescense can be all green or striped in brown and green over mottle purple stems.
Our native Arisaema, Green Dragon.
Arisaema dracontium is our local Green Dragon with leaves in a half-circle at the top of a stout stem. Spathe is about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way up the stem and resembles a tube with a tongue sticking out (spandix). Not the most showy in bloom, but great architecture.
Arisaema tortuosum goes by the name of the Tortured Jack. Large oval spathe at the top of a stem well above foliage resembling the Green Dragon. The spandix sticks up and out of the inflorescense. When the ‘bloom’ ages it places pressure on the spandix causing it to twist, thus the torture.
More to come next week as even more exotic Arisaema emerge and come into bloom.