Specimen Natives for Your Woodland
This is the last in a three-part series of posts dealing with native plants for mid-Atlantic U.S. gardens. In the first, Your Native Woodland, I explained how easy it is to create your own native woodland garden by choosing plants that spread aggressively. In the second, Native Phlox for Your Garden, I profiled some of the wonderful members of the genus Phlox, all native to eastern North America and Pennsylvania in particular. Here I am going to suggest some superstar native plants to place between the spreaders recommended in the first post.
Let’s face it: none of us avid gardeners (and collectors) are going to be happy limiting ourselves to the seven spreading plants that I recommended in my previous post for colonizing a woodland. Although the gardening books seem to think we have moist, loamy soil in our woods, we don’t (where do these people garden anyway?). So what other plants can stand up to the root-filled, dry, rocky, clay soil prevalent in the woods of the mid-Atlantic? You will be happy to know there are many, and the plants shown below just scratch the surface. I have personally tested each one, and killed many others, so I know they work.
Sweet Betsy, Trillium cuneatum, also does well as do prairie trillium, T. recurvatum, and yellow trillium, T. luteum. Although I usually do not water my woodland, I find that trilliums benefit from watering in drought conditions.
My woodland wouldn’t be complete without mayapples with their beautifully patterned, umbrella-like leaves, incredibly fragrant flowers, and “apples” in May. However, they do spread quite quickly and are better used as one of the colonizing plants in my first post—give them room.
Every woodland needs lots of ferns! Pictured here is cinnamon fern, Osmunda cinnamomea, but I also have Christmas, royal, and ostrich ferns in my woods, among others. In the flood plain down by my creek, ostrich fern has successfully out competed my nemesis, the incredibly invasive, non-native Japanese knotweed. In drier woods, ostrich fern’s spreading tendencies are kept in check.
Large camas, Camassis leichtlinii ‘Caerulea’, is native to western North America not the mid-Atlantic, but it does so well in my woodland that I have included it here. The large clumps of tall blue flowers line the back of the beds.
Foamflower, Tiarella cordifolia, is a star of my woodland garden with its wonderful fragrance, interesting leaves, and red fall color. There are many cultivars available, and I recommend choosing a spreading form: cultivars in the “River Series” are particularly vigorous.
One of the loveliest native flowers in my woods is rue-anemone, Anemonella thalictroides (photo used with the permission of Arrowhead Alpines). It looks so dainty, but it is tough as nails and seeds around freely.
You can’t go wrong when you add any of these wonderful native plants to your woodland. They are ‘tried and true’ in mine!
Commenters have asked for photos showing ” sweeping vistas” of my woods. It is impossible to take this kind of photo in my woodland and capture the effect of the masses of plants because of the trees. My woods are filled with 10 to 12′ diameter trees—no panoramic views are possible. The best I could do was go up on the roof and shoot down, but individual plants are not visible, and I am not happy with the result:
Nursery Happenings: The third annual Great Hosta Blowout where you can order beautiful hostas for a bargain basement price is going on now until April 25. To see the catalogue, click here. My third Open House Sale, featuring hostas, ferns, and hardy geraniums, will take place on Saturday, May 12, from 10 am to 3 pm.
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