Six on Saturday – 4/5/2019

With a bit of luck the short return of winter forecast for this weekend will spare the far southwest; frost at this stage of the great unfurling can do untold damage. Just now it’s raining, but just a passing shower methinks.

One large oak tree at the southwest corner and a few overgrown shrubs are what passes for woodland in my garden. They provide shade and shade provides conditions for a whole range of suitably adapted plants. This is their season, grabbing the short window between the depths of winter and the deep shade and dryness of summer. Here are six of them.

Maianthemum racemosum occurs across North America with the western form being a bigger growing polyploid version of the eastern form. I don’t have a clue about the origins of mine. I have a couple of forms; this one is growing in the shade, and root zone, of a large conifer; given more moisture it would almost certainly grow bigger and better.

Disporum is a large and mixed genus and I grow several different forms. This one is Disporum bodinierii, which like the Maianthemum, is probably underperforming for lack of moisture. It’s planted in the shade of my big bamboo, always a risky strategy as its event horizon marches relentlessly outwards. Too dry, the Disporum manages about 18 inches. The book says 6 foot, the label says nothing. I really must move it, I want to see what it’s really capable of.

Polygonatum mengzense f. tonkinensis HWJ573 is very different from the other Polygonatums that I grow and is now sending up its new shoots for this year. The new leaves are dark reddish-brown and the stems are mottled the same colour. The flowers are tiny but they are followed by bright red berries which are still on last years shoots, contrasting with the by now green foliage.

Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’. This is just the most undemanding plant. I think it got caught by a late frost one year and it does like plenty of moisture but boy does it repay the small amount of trouble taken.

Convallaria majalis ‘Hofhein’. Lily of the valley has a reputation for either being successful to the point of invasiveness or not doing much at all. I suspect this belongs in the former category but hopefully it will be contained by its equally thuggish neighbours. The variegated edge to the leaves makes it slightly more interesting (doesn’t it?) which is just as well because its floral performance is a tad underwhelming; very small flower spikes completely hidden by the leaves. They may be scented, I’m not going snuffling like a truffle pig to find out.

Epimedium ‘Windfire’. I am not good at resisting beautiful plants of Epimediums on specialist nursery stalls at plant fairs. Not a good thing, because I’m not very good at growing them either. I can grow the easy ones but the newer introductions from China and the numerous hybrids of them don’t seem happy here. Too dry? Too many slugs? Frustratingly I don’t really know why they are failing. This one seems to have settled in OK. The challenge of taking its picture will keep me going for a while though.

The rain has stopped, the sun is shining. The garden beckons. Across the world the sixers are posting their posts and going out to scent mark their territories, tweaking and preening their photosynthetic eukaryotes as they go. We are linked by an obsession and we are linked by The Propagator, the centre of whose web is the comments section of his own six, where a small downward movement of the index finger will transport you around the world. Oh shut up will you!

30 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 4/5/2019

  1. ‘The great unfurling’ what a great expression, it really sums up this this time of the year. I am crazy about the disporum and what an unusual polygonatum. Have you by any chance been visiting Crüg nursery? Is that just one Spotty Dotty? I hope mine will clump up like this. I agree epimediums are a challenge to photograph but I love them.


    1. The Disporum came from Barracott Plants, I imagine it’s a Crug collection though. The Polgonatum was from Crug. I’ve yet to manage a visit, I’ve seen them at various plant fairs and shows and did a mail order purchase once too. Just one Spotty Dotty, bought when they were still highly priced, much cheaper now.


  2. I’m afraid I find your Spotty Dotty rather spooky! Nice to see Lily-of-the-valley again. I used to have some but it did take over a complete flowerbed so it went. We were down your way last weekend and passed Treseders nursery. We were definitely going to visit on the journey home but took a wrong turning and completely by-passed Bugle! However, we will be there again in June so will definitely visit it then.


    1. Cornwall consists of a sparse network of roads with labyrinths between them. Not that missing Bugle would be high on my list of worries. You’d be welcome to drop in here when you’re down in June, we make a reasonable cup of tea, in our opinion at least.


  3. Still beautiful finds today thanks to you … a pleasure!
    Spotty dotty is developing slowly here in France but since recently we can find it in nurseries and customers seem interested in the novelty (I smile as I see their faces as they look with stupefaction at something I already know, thanks to you all… I have learned a lot in 2 years)
    The Lily of the valley is a success here too. I’m part of the first category : it spreads !


    1. I have seedlings of the Polygonatum, about an inch high after two years. I think Crug are coming to Tregrehan next month and they’ll happily bring things down for you (well, why wouldn’t they be?) Barracott Plants too, and Bob Brown. June 2nd.

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  4. Six lovely shady plants that might have tempted me except my woodland border is almost full now. I think I may have planted some lily of the valley in the wrong spot as they will get morning sun. Oh, well, I guess I can replant them. And yes, I agree, photographing Epimedium flowers is nigh on impossible! But they are so pretty!


    1. I think I have to get a decent picture of the Epimedium just for my own satisfaction. Perhaps a focus stack shot first thing in the morning before the air starts moving. An almost full woodland garden sounds like a garden needing something really special for the last bit of space. NSTATMP.

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  5. Glad to hear that lily of the valley has a dark side, which to me, is failure to thrive. Where I lived before moving to this rain sot isle, lily of the valley was one of those easy things everyone had in their shady side, fighting to keep it off the line. Now I know that I can be forgiven for all the ones I’ve killed since moving here. And that’s been a lot. Is there a special layer of hell for lily of the valley murderers? Both the disporum (what a great name!) & the maianthemum are so interesting in a beautiful way. Your personal woodland must be gorgeous.


    1. There is a special layer of hell for lily of the valley murderers, the people who murder lily of the valley and the people who murder people using lily of the valley to do so get to share it. Lily of the valley has more than one dark side. The Wikipedia list of toxins it contains is not for the faint hearted. My personal woodland is perhaps more aspirational than actual; I’d plant in the shade of a watering can if someone left it there long enough.


      1. Considering my family of origin, I’m surprised no one ever told me lily of the valley was toxic. I really am going to have to try it again. Old dogs cast a lot of shade in rather pleasing shapes, & potentially larger than a water can’s shadow.


  6. It’s a beautiful photo of the epimedium. The stem looks amazing. What a plantsman you are and a successful LofV grower, I’m with Lora – in hell! Keep delivering the posh fancies, I hope all these new (to me) plants will seep into my brain eventually.


    1. It’s a great plant though I doubt you’ll pick it up cheap at Morrisons and you will need somewhere that retains some moisture. Small plants at my usual garden centre were £8.50 in a 3L pot.


    1. It did used to be called Smilacina and around here often still is, though I usually can remember neither name. Dotty is a thirsty wench, last summer was quite a trial.


  7. False Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum) grows in the road that goes up to two small parcels where I ‘store’ the fig trees that I have no room for. They come up through the gravel, but are so deep down that I can not dig them up. I have never seen what the ‘plant’ below the surface looks like. They grow in the forest too, but I never tried to dig them up there because they were not getting run over.
    Lily-of-the-valley does not do well at all for me, and have tried it many times!


    1. What I especially like about Maianthemum racemosum is that it is completely bombproof. Without compromising anything by way of ornamental value it is tolerant of wet and dry, impervious to slugs and tolerant, if not happy, in full sun; at least in comparison to any of the other woodlanders I grow. Lily of the valley had been ticking over for me, but seem to have relished last years’ relatively hot and dry summer, which I find surprising.

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