Sunday, April 30, 2006

Uncommon Spring Pleasures

This is the time of year when you need a sharp eye to keep up with what's going on in the wilds of your garden. It's easy to spot the masses of yellow forsythia or the glaring purple Rhododenrons, but there are small wonders that are easily missed unless you're out scouting for them. I've been growing Darmera peltata, or trying to grow it, for years. It's a great foliage plant for shady, damp spots, and since I don't have much damp shade, it's been a challenge.

This plant is grown for its glossy, enormous foliage, held on stems in such a way as to evoke a magician whirling plates on sticks.

Today I decided to see if the Darmera I'd planted a couple of years ago had survived another winter; I wasn't especially optimistic that I'd see it. Not only is it alive, it was putting on an unusual show. For the first time, I saw the Darmera budding up; I'd never even realized that it flowered.

Other oddities show themselves in early spring, and one of my favorites is the Checkered Lily, or Fritillaria meleagris:
It seems to be available only in mixes of white and red, which is too bad since the red is such an interesting little thing.

This is also bloodroot's short flowering season, for about a week Sanguinaria canadensis displays its charming pure-white blooms in our shady woodland garden. Its beauty is not show-stopping, it's a subtle and fleeting pleasure.

The Hellebores are finally finishing up, the late-winter flowering woodies like Jasminium nudiflorum and Hamamellis are mostly done, and the popular, splashy spring flowers are holding forth. Don't forget to look for the more uncommon, shy flowers that are blooming now; their subtle beauty is a spring pleasure not to be missed.


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