May 13, 2012

May Flowers, May Apples and May Treasures

CYPRIPEDIUM 'GESELA', STILL YOUNG AND PALE, THIS NEW PLANT STILL PRODUCED A SINGLE BLOSSOM. IN A FEW YEARS, IF ALL GO'S WELL, THIS PLANT MAY HAVE AS MANY AS 30 FLOWERS.

For a very short period in May, deciduous woodlands around the world burst into bud and bloom. In Japan, China, Korea, Russia, Scandinavia and North America - May marks the peak season much of Mother Nature - for migratory song birds eager to breed, taking advantage of these longest days of the year,  insects rush to pupate, mate and to lay eggs (in our woodland, these are the only three weeks one can find the Luna moth), and woodland plants seem to complete an entire years growth in just three short weeks. These are the weeks of fragrant wild azalea, lady slipper orchids, Mayapples and countless other woodland treasures.

PODOPHYLLUM PELTATUM, THE COMMON MAYAPPLE

In the garden, imports of similar species from other continents  such as Asia, adds to the show.  Take Mayapples for example - our native Mayapple, Podophyllum peltatum, also known as American Mandrake, grows in an ever growing colony near the edges of our garden. A spreader, it never really becomes invasive, but it does move about quickly. We love it, because with 2.5 acres, much of the yard is...well, weedy. Like I've said before, you would be shocked if you ever visited. Much of our yard is too messy to show on this blog, and I have little time at all to even cut grass or to power up a weed wacker. Plants that form a carpet, such as the Mayapple then becomes even more valuable, for it grows so thickly, it chokes out even the most aggressive weed.


Podophyllum peltatum, our native Mayapple, grows near the boundary of our garden and the woods. Protected from the hottest summer sun by tall trees, it forms a carpet of green, mingling with other spreading shade woodland plants, such as Petasites japonicus variegated form, and some hosta. Yes, I grow hosta, and I'm OK with it!

Podophyllum pleianthum


A rarer Mayapple, meet it's Asian relative - Podophyllum pleianthum. Eventually this will become a giant specimen plant with 40" tall stalks - to-die-for. This Asian Mayapple will take some time to settle in, so patience is required. This plant is two years old, another in another part of the garden is only one year old. 

Syneilesis aconitifolia

Another plant that takes some time settling in, but it worth seeking out is this woodland beauty from Korea is Syneilesis aconitifolia. Thanks to the great plant explorers from the late 20th Century like Daniel Hinkley, who introduced many of these Asian woodland plants into cultivation through the then incredible  Heronswood Nursery, trying to find these plants is still challenging ( try Plant Delights Nursery). Syneilesis is one of those plants that once you see it in its full magnificence, you must add it to your own garden. Images in books and my pathetic little two year old plant above, will not convince you, at least not yet. In three years, when I show a photo, you will want it.


A closer look at one of the umbrella-like leaves on Petasites japonicus var variegata.

SINOCALYCANTHUS x RAULSTONII 'HARTLAGE WINE'


This plant always impresses me, which is tough to do during the burst of growth that happens in May. Sinocalycanthus ( now just Calycanthus again) x raulstonii 'Harlage Wine' is one of those amazing plants with an amazing story. It arose from a cross between a Chinese species and and American species of Calycanthus. Now, every collector has one in their garden, and I can see why. First bred in 1990, it has not taken long for this shrub to be shared among the people who know. It is vigorous and unusual, with merlot colored magnolia-like blossoms. I've planted this specimen near the woodland edge of our garden, where tall trees tower overhead, providing dappled shade, perfect conditions for this rarely seen shrub. Look for the white form called 'Venus'.



PICEA PUNGENS 'GEBELLE'S GOLDEN SPRING'

Even evergreens can be showy in May - many spruce (Picea)  selections have been introduced that have this curious color-change effect early in the year. New grow emerges almost white, literally glowing in the garden, a lovely effect, and one that I can't wait to see on a mature specimen.  My Gebelle's Golden Spring is still quite small, and struggling to form a leader. The spectacular coloring on the young shoots gradually fades to a more typical green by the end of June.


HALESIA TETRAPTERA - THE NATIVE AMERICAN SILVERBELL TREE

Behold, the Silverbell tree. A rarely seen native American tree from Virginia, and the Carolinas, Halesia tetraptera makes a large, tree that blooms with a display that makes one wonder why this tree isn't planted in every park and street in America. My tree is still small, more of a shrub right now, as it had a tough childhood ( too many encounters with a lawn mower). It is still young, and 10 feet tall, and covered in 1 gagillion silverbells.  In my home town of Worcester, MA, a large Halesia grows in Elm Park, designed by Olmsted, the noted landscape architect, the tree is a large as an oak tree, and when in bloom, it's almost a bizarre site, since how often does one see an oak tree in bloom with white tiny bells. I have always wanted one,  as i reminds me of my first job where one grew on the estate where I gardened. It is still rarely seen in many American gardens. 

1 comment :

  1. Loved reading about these woodland treasures. I agree completely about the silverbell and am making a mental note to head to Elm Park next time I'm in Worcester, Mass.

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