The Weird and the Wonderful

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

The flowers of Farges’s cobra lily (Asian jack-in-the-pulpit), Arisaema fargesii, are spectacular.

Our recent trip to North Carolina for my son’s college graduation (see North Carolina and Duke Gardens) included a visit to Plant Delights Nursery just south of Raleigh.  Plant Delights is a mail order nursery started in 1988 and specializing in new and rare perennials, including many shade plants like jack-in-the-pulpits, wild ginger, mayapples, and toad-lilies.  The sales area is quite large and well laid out and, of course, purchases were made.  But the real reason I visited was to spend time in what Plant Delights calls the Juniper Level Botanic Gardens, a five acre display garden featuring the weird and wonderful plants they sell plus additional plants that are being trialed.

Golden variegated bush ivy, x Fatshedera lizei ‘Annemieke’, which I have never seen before, evidently resulted from a cross between a houseplant and ivy (not hardy in zone 6 unfortunately).

Michael and I spent over two hours in the shade section of the gardens (we never made it to the sunny side) admiring and photographing all the amazing plants displayed there.  I have to thank Michael who was by my side the whole time viewing (with suitable comments) every plant I pointed out and patiently recording the botanical name of every plant I photographed.  He even pointed out some of his own and never said don’t you think we should be going.  That’s dedication.

This lacecap hydrangea, H. serrata ‘Burgundy Edge’, was growing literally in the dark.

I love jack-in-the-pulpits, both native and Asian, and Plant Delights must have the best collection in the U.S.  Here are some of my favorites:

I didn’t realize that there were variegated forms of our native jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum, but I saw two at Plant Delights: ‘Black Jack’ above and a white variegated cultivar called ‘Starburst’.

Taiwan cobra lily, Arisaema taiwanense

Jack-in-the-pulpit cross, Arisaema formosanum x consanguineum

Pinellia tripartita ‘Atropurpurea’


Arisaema thunbergii

Arisaema thunbergii ‘Wakayama’

Farges’s cobra lily, Arisaema fargesii, a close up of the flower appears at the beginning of the article.

The leaves of Japanese cobra lily, Arisaema ringens, are immense.

Here is Michael standing next to Arisaema ringens for scale.

I can’t imagine that Plant Delights’ collection of another of my favorites, mayapples, Podophyllum sp., can be surpassed:

Chinese mayapple, Podophyllum delavayi

Chinese mayapple, Podophyllum versipelle

I had never seen the flowers of Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’.

Chinese mayapple, Podophyllum pleianthum

Chinese mayapple, Podophyllum difforme, looks like it should be growing on Mars.

Plant Delights also has a comprehensive collection of wild gingers:

I wish my ‘Galaxy’ wild ginger, Asarum takaoi ‘Galaxy’, would grow like this.

Asarum takaoi ‘Sekkyo’

Asarum kumageanum

The flower of Asarum nobilissimum

Asarum maximum ‘Shell Shocked’

I found a number of other weird and wonderful shade plants that I would like to add to my gardens:

Barrenwort, Epimedium fargesii

Toad-lily, Tricyrtis ‘Lunar Eclipse’

Very rare Paris species labeled “Wavy Leaf”

Native bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis “Deep Lobes”

Rosa ‘Verdun’ was covered with flowers in full shade.

Toad-lily, Tricyrtis ‘Lemon Twist’

I was finally able to purchase a shredded umbrella plant, Syneilesis aconitifolia, which I have been coveting for years!

If you are in the area, I highly recommend that you visit the Juniper Level Botanic Gardens.  Plant Delights is open eight weekends a year for garden visits.  Their website lists the dates.  If you can’t visit then, you can always make an appointment.


Notes: Click on any photo to enlarge.  Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.), just click here.

Nursery Happenings:  The nursery is closed until it cools off in the fall around the middle of September.  If you are on my customer email list, look for an email.  If not, sign up by sending an email to with your name and phone number.

77 Responses to “The Weird and the Wonderful”

  1. I’m rather envious – trying not to be jealous! You visited what I would envision (and you prove) to be a wonderful place!!! I think the “j-in-the-p” you couldn’t identify Might be Tripartita?

    • SG, It was a very fun visit. I will look into Tripartita. Carolyn

      • I agree about this…..but it’s not an Arisaema but a Pinellia tripartita or pedatisecta, a close relative of the Arisaemas.
        I visited PDN last March and had a blast! Came home with Trillium underwoodii, Hellebores and lots of other goodies. I would love to get some of those Podophyllums some time!

      • Amy, In the back of my mind, I seem to remember that the plants you mentioned are very invasive. I looked at Google images and neither of them have a red flower. Glad you had a chance to visit Plant Delights and thought it was worth the trip. Carolyn

  2. Nurseries with display gardens are such a bonus all the way around–it sounds like this one was a real shot in the arm for you. All those wonderful patterns in the variegation are really astonishing. To think that people lament the limitations of shade gardening…

    By the way, three cheers for Michael!

  3. Happy Fourth!

    Very quiet in blogland.

    That striped Jack in the Pulpit would partner well with snakeshead fritillary. Pinstripes and checks. Could be two characters in a children’s book.

  4. I really enjoyed the tour of this garden. The plants are absolutely amazing–so unique, lovely, and mesmerizing. You took wonderful photos to illustrate these interesting plants.

  5. Louise Thompson Says:

    I’ve bought a number of plants from Plant Delights over the past ten years and even though the plants are a bit expensive, they’re always very well rooted and do well. They have the only hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) I’ve found that’s hardy in our zone 6 garden, so I buy a few more every year, and now they’re trying to take over my garden! Plus their catalog covers are hilarious.

  6. fun for you I’m sure. love the comment about Michael staying around when your browsing. on my trip to the xeriscape garden, I had to twist arms and legs just to do a walk through, and still had to hurry. sad but true. your comment on the existing landscape was unique. the front range (east side of the rockies) has such a rich natural landscape and many who live there bring there own idiosyncrasies. mainly kentucky bluegrass and landscape fabirc with gravel. the soil is pretty pathetic in areas(clay which bakes). it is a desert with 11″ of precip. mainly snow. I think with time there will me more integration into the natural landscape.

  7. Btw, what would be a good may apple vairiety for me in kansas. 6a hot and windy.

  8. So many interesting plants! Love the bloom of the cobra lily, but the leaves are spectacular too! I’m glad you got a plant you have wanted for a while. It’s pretty.

  9. Boccegirl Says:

    Wow, C! This is your most interesting post yet!

  10. Wonderful plants, Carolyn. Thanks for sharing your finds with us.

  11. What a wonderful selection of plants. I love the Jack-in-the Pulpit in the first photo. I liked how you showed the whole plat too. It gives some scale to the flower with the huge leaves. Also, Micheal makes a good prop.

  12. I’ve never heard of a rose that blooms in shade!! I’ve ordered from them before but have never visited their nursery since it’s a state away. I bought my hardy snapdragons from them. Definitely some cool plants in your pix!!

  13. The cobra lilies are fascinating and beautiful! They are so mysterious.

    Congratulations to your son! Quite an accomplishment!

  14. Your photos are so visually arresting! I especially like the wild ginger series.

    Congrats on your son’s graduation!

  15. Clara Berger Says:

    Re the Arisema you need to I.D. Try Pinellia ternata. It is a terrific ground cover for me.

  16. Wow! Weird and wonderful indeed! Some of these plants, like the Taiwan Cobra Lily, look like they came straight out of a Dr. Suess storybook! (Or, like you said, MARS.) Actually, Tim Burton comes to mind when looking at that Farge’s cobra lily close up. Great pictures!

    Love that Chinese Mayapple foliage and the ‘Lemon Twist’ Toad Lily. I’m in awe that any rose can and is blooming in full shade – amazing!

    Thanks for sharing these plants with us, Carolyn!

  17. Carolyn – Sounds like you struck gold when you met Michael. Some of those plants look a bit scary to me (maybe it’s because of the names). I like the Galaxy ginger too.

  18. Beautiful plants! I think I want them all. I am sure I need a bigger garden.

  19. What an amazing nursery and garden! Isn’t that Rosa ‘Verdun’ something! Thanks for sharing this garden with us!

  20. What an interesting post! I’d only heard of May Apples last year, and I agree Podophyllum difforme does look rather alien.

    • Clare, We have a native mayapple that grows all over in the east (it seems to be able to stand up to invasive plants) so I guess I take it for granted. I do want to collect all the other species though. I guess there isn’t a mayapple native to California. Carolyn

  21. Dear Carolyn, These plants are indeed Weird and Wonderful, especially the first toadlily picture. I was given a mayapple this year, but I am not sure if it survived. I can see why you wanted a shredded umbrella plant — now I want one, too. P. x

    • Pam, I had seen the shredded umbrella plant in some collector’s gardens over the years and really wanted one. Instead of seeking it out, I just have a life list of plants that I want and when I run into one of them a t a nursery, I buy it. Carolyn

  22. Between you and Pam at Digging, Mr. Avent should have sent you home with some freebies due to all the blog publicity. It is a marvelous place and for people who garden in the land of hazy hot and humid, we appreciate all his efforts to bring new plants to the table that thrive in our climate. BTW, Fatshedra is a cross between Hedera helix and Fatsia japonica. It will not run rampant like Ivy, but it is vinier than Fatsia.

  23. Wow! The first photo really looked like anaconda than a cobra..very unusual and exotic! In fact the first time Ive seen it! Such interesting pattern of different types of foliage, who needs flowers!

  24. You found lots of great plants there, but the picture of the cobra lily really took my breath away!

  25. Clara Berger Says:

    I wonder if your customers who are overrun with Pinellia have the purple throated variety or the plain green throated which I’ve heard called Green Dragon? Green Dragon is one of the most invasive plants I’ve ever seen but the purple throated one has been very well behaved here.
    I agree with all the comments about what a great article this is.
    Keep up the good work.

  26. Very envious of your tour here Carolyn. Would be hard to tear myself away. Thank you for showing us so many diverse plants that grow in shade. I have a H. serrata i but it’s flagging a little without the moist soil it prefers. Breathtaking 1st shot – I would like to hang in on my wall. You’ve picked up some great plants from here for your own magnificent garden.

  27. This post is amazing! What a fantastic resource for all of us. I wish us New England folk could grow bush ivy-amazing!!! Thanks for sharing your adventure Carolyn.

    • Jay, So nice to hear from you. Love your post on planting shrubs. I tried to leave a comment but I don’t think it worked. I just mentioned you this morning to a very qualified person who is looking for a landscaping job sales outside Boston. He may contact you. Carolyn

  28. What a fabulous collection of plants – I am a sucker for stylish foliage at the best of times, but that has to be the best selection I have ever seen gathered together. I am in love with Sanguinaria canadensis “Deep Lobes”, but that feels unfair, as until I saw it I had lost my heart to the Asian jack-in-the-pulpit, and then there is that wonderful Chinese mayapple… I’m not surprised you never made it to the sunny section! What a great place to visit.

    • Janet, It was interesting because when I visited the Duke Gardens on the same trip I saw wild bloodroot also with deep lobes. I wonder if it is a local population all with that showy configuration. Glad you liked the plants. Carolyn

  29. I was drooling all the way through this post. My wish list is growing ever longer: Rosa ‘Verdun’, shredded umbrella plant, those beautiful mayapples and asarums… If anyone thinks gardening in the shade is boring, that person hasn’t seen your blog!

  30. Carolyn, so many weird and wonderful plants you show us, non more so than the Farges’s cobra lily, Arisaema fargesii. We do have a form of the Tricyrtis which has purple flowers in Autumn.

  31. Thanks for taking us on a virtual tour of this fabulous place. I have been coveting a jack in the pulpit for years… hard to get around here, and although there are supposed to be some native varieties I have yet to see one in the wild. You have me drooling!

  32. Quite the show Carolyn. A fabulous place to visit and is now on my list. I am enamored with the deep lobes bloodroot, I did a double -take on that photo.

  33. Clara Berger Says:

    Hi Carolyn,
    I’m back again concerning the Pinellia. I found it under Pinellia ternata this spring. (Googled it and hit images.) I do think there’s a world of difference between the purple and Green Dragon and I know Tony well enough to know he wouldn’t grow it if it were terribly invasive.

    BTW, if you find a source for Rosa Verdun I do hope you will share with all of us.


  34. Wow, that first image is certainly a show-stopper. It looks like a liquorice allsort ! I also loved the Galaxy wild ginger. The epimedium fargesii is surprising too, with its narrow leaves: you have to look really hard to see even a hint of the traditional heart shape. All in all, a great haul of unusual plants.

  35. Wish I had the climate for ‘Galaxy’ wild ginger, those leaves are fab.

  36. That is impressive how different posts about the same place can be! I love seeing all the shade plants you focused on – it’s not a subject I know much about! It was great to see your take on the botanical garden – there’s something for everyone there!

  37. Hi Carolyn, I ran across this posting while doing a search for Podophyllums. Glad to see all the pictures of Plant Delights a little later in the season than I usually go. I’m wondering about the picture for Podophyllum delavayi. The pictures I’ve usually seen have marvelously variegated foliage.

    • John, The captions are directly from the Plant Delights label. Perhaps it is like our native mayapples which are usually fairly green but can have wonderful markings. Breeders would choose the more marked forms and the available photos and specimens would reflect that. Just a guess. Carolyn

  38. The Arisaema you couldn’t identify is Pinellia tripartita — be afraid, be very afraid. I got one from Tony. I thought I might grow it in a pot if it made a good cut flower, it doesn’t, but I have been digging them out ever since. It and it’s less attractive brothers, are very invasive.

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