Here are four pretty shade perennials I recently bought to plant under the trees. Trillium grandiflorum (great white trillium), Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot) and Arisaema sikokianum (Japanese jack in the pulpit) are woodland perennials that emerge to bloom in the spring. The Trillium and Sanguinaria have white flowers, while the Arisaema has a white interior on the hooded spathe and a conspicuous white spadix in the middle. The Arisaema is going to be borderline hardy, but is so captivating, that I had to give it a try. The new Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern) has nicely shaped fronds. These plants are still in their pots as they pose for their photo shoot, before being planted in the garden.
The Arisaema sikokianum (Japanese jack in the pulpit) is a striking plant that grabs your attention with its unusual flower shape and colour contrast. There is a long dark coloured spathe (hood) that rises up from behind, with distinct stripes on the interior. The inside of the cup is a pure white. Within the cup is the equally white spadix. The unique form is eye-catching, along with the bright white contrast. The light colour shows up well in the dark of the shade. There are two leaves, one with 3 lobes, and one with 5. This woodland plant will be planted under the trees, where it should be right at home. I only purchased one plant, because I’m not sure if it will be entirely hardy. It is rated for zone 5, and the garden is in zone 3, but I’ve had fairly good success with other perennials that were borderline. I’ll make sure that the jack in the pulpit is covered with leaves in the fall, and the snow cover should help too. Since they are not very common yet, it’s possible that this particular type of jack in the pulpit just haven’t been tried much in zone 3. I’ll let you know next spring if this perennial survives an Alberta winter. Update: They survived a very cold winter, with only tree leaf cover, and flowered the next season.
Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot) has distinctive, deeply lobed and rounded leaves. Although I haven’t broken a stem yet, they are supposed to have a red sap. This is the origin of both their common name and Latin name. It has been a while since I took Latin, but for a dead language, it comes in handy once in a while. I haven’t decided whether to plant these perennials in the garden next to some lacy ferns, or beside some Pulmonaria (lungwort) that have long leaves. Being a woodland plant, they should enjoy the same shade as these perennials. You can see these in bloom in this followup post on Sanguinaria canadensis and their flowers.
I’ve picked up a new fern, Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern). Although the plant is still in its pot, it looks good in the dappled light under the tree. These ferns like it moist, so I’ll add lots of organic matter to the soil. They are found throughout eastern North America, and now in an Edmonton garden too. Sensitive ferns are hardy to zone 2, so they won’t need any coddling. This fern won’t be for fall interest, since the fronds quickly die back when the frosts come. The fertile fronds are supposed to persist, much like ostrich ferns.
Aren’t the three petalled Trillium grandiflorum flowers pretty? I remember these plants from the woods of Ontario. They are perfect for a shady garden.
I’ve decided to plant some real Trilliums this year. A year ago I bought some ill fated trillium rhizomes in a plastic package from the store. I knew they were not a good idea, even as I was buying them, but they were so inexpensive (another bad sign), that I thought I’d give them a try, with nothing much lost. Well, I carefully prepared the soil and planted the rhizomes underneath the maple tree, where they’d be sure to get lots of leaf litter in the shade. I watered them, and waited, but no hint of green appeared. Since trilliums often die back for the summer, I thought perhaps they might appear later. All summer I tended the area, and even when I brought home new plants, I reserved the spot for my phantom trilliums. In the fall, when I needed space for some new perennials, I refrained from planting anything too close to the spot with the nonexistent trilliums. Well now, a year later, nothing has emerged from underground, so I’ve given up the fantasy that there were ever any real trilliums there, and I’ll plant these new beauties. Their lovely white petals, and nicely shaped leaves, in groups of 3, will look much better than a carefully tended bare area.
I look forward to seeing if these new woodland perennials spread next year. I’d love to have a little colony of trilliums. Even though they are in a suburban garden, I hope the new woodland plants appreciate the shade of the trees, surrounded by fallen leaves.
Here is a follow up post about how the woodland flowers are growing.