While hiking in the Rocky Mountains last week, I saw the ground under the conifers covered with a lovely carpet of Cornus canadensis (bunchberry), rising up through the moss. The little white flowers stretched out in the distance, making a wonderful groundcover among the evergreens.
I was inspired to recreate the little woodland floor scene of the first photo in my own garden. The reality of the bunchberry planting is getting a little fuzzy now, compared to the picture in my memory. I have a suburban sized garden, so the planting would have to be a smaller version. Back in town this week, I looked around the greenhouses for some Cornus canadensis, but I only found three healthy looking plants. My picture of a carpet of these perennials under my conifers was reduced to a carpet sample. Also, the ground under my conifers in front is rather dry, so no moss grows there. However, I do have a small group of this little woodland groundcover now, and they are charming, if a little downscaled from my imaginary garden. It reminds me of when they lowered the Stonehenge model in the movie Spinal Tap.
Here are my three bunchberry perennials in their pots still. I might try transplanting some of the moss from my back patio to the garden area under my spruce, around the Cornus canadensis. It’s certainly shady enough, and maybe with a bit of watering in, it might get established., even if it’s not the really beautiful moss of the forest floor.
In the montane forest where I saw the bunchberries, the trees were competing with each other for light, so most of the branches were up high, and the area underneath was fairly open. The forest was mainly Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, and white spruce. It was damp, and wispy lichen hung from the trees. Mixed in with the Cornus canadensis on the forest floor, were some Linnaea borealis (twinflower). These woodland groundcovers made a very serene scene.
My garden conditions are not quite the same as the montane forest. I have pine and spruce, and the spruce have branches close to the ground. It’s also drier, and I’m missing the wispy lichen, but I think the bunchberry will add a woodsy feel to my suburban forest site.
Bunchberry gets large clusters of red berries after the flowers fade. Perhaps some of the local wildlife will enjoy the berries from these plants after I’ve enjoyed the flowers. In the fall, the foliage turns bright colours, which will extend the interest. You can see the fall colour change of bunchberry in this post.
For now, I have a smaller version of the woodland floor from the Rockies, with Cornus canadensis plants. I can always extend it next year. Do you ever get inspired by natural areas when planning your garden?