It’s been a long time (149 days to be exact) since I’ve visited you here, but spring inspires and encourages in a way that can’t be denied. And besides, what better time is there to write about a garden, especially a shady garden, than when it offers its finest flowers. So here is a happy look at the best of March with a nod to Chloris at the Blooming Garden and the other bloggers who post their top ten at the close of each month.
Halesia carolina is the undisputed Queen of this Upstate garden, where it grows in abundance on a north-east facing hillside reaching down to the Reedy River.
Commonly called Carolina Silver Bell, this medium size tree can reach 30 to 40 feet tall and nearly as wide under a broken canopy of towering hardwoods. Just as its leaves begin to emerge, the tree blooms with bell-shaped white flowers that look like old-fashioned petticoats and then, later, it forms four-winged seedpods that often persist into winter. In autumn, its deciduous foliage turns a rich golden yellow.
Although the Erythronium americanum (trout lilies) and Sanguinaria canadensis (bloodroot) have completed their bloom period, there is still a mix of wildflowers to be found in the woodland.
Trillium cuneatum (little sweet Betsy) ranks high on my list of favorites. Arising from a fleshy rhizome, each stem has a whorl of three leaves topped by a single flower with three petals. This species is the largest and most vigorous of the sessile trilliums found in the eastern U.S. If you’re willing to get down on your knees for a whiff, you’ll find it has a slightly sweet fragrance reminiscent of bananas.
Known as twin leaf (for obvious reasons), Jeffersonia diphylla was named by John Bartram to honor the third U.S. President. Unlike the above trillium, which is naturally occurring here, this species was purchased and added to the woodland garden a few years ago. The southern end of its range includes the mountains of Tennessee and Georgia. Surprisingly, it is a member of the Barberry family.
Many will recognize Martensia virginica, called Virginia bluebells, which are easy to grow in the right conditions (rich, moist soil and full to part shade), but seem to spread ever so slowly. With luck and patience, they form loose clumps about 18-inches wide.
In a nearby opening with a bit more sun, I’ve planted a collection of native deciduous azaleas, including this Rhododendron austrinum, known as the Florida flame azalea, or sometimes called the honeysuckle azalea. As you would guess from its common names, its fragrant blooms create a show-stopping display.
Above the river terraces, the back garden features two ‘Autumn Brilliance’ Amelanchier x grandiflora, better known as serviceberry.
Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’
A hybrid of two southern natives, the small tree’s March flowers produce May fruits, which are loved by the birds and are a valuable source of food during their nesting season. This particular cultivar is distinguished with strong stems and vibrant orange-red color in autumn.
And here is a quick look at what’s blooming in the ornamental spaces surrounding the house:
Ajuga reptans ‘Chocolate Chip’
The dwarf ‘Chocolate Chip’ ajuga makes a handsome mat of bronze-tinged foliage but, thankfully, doesn’t self-seed as aggressively as many of its kin.
My favorite hellebore with especially fine foliage and erect stems of lime-green flowers.
Phlox divaricata ‘Blue Moon’
A stunning woodland phlox with outstanding color and very full flower petals.
And finally, this eye-catching bleeding heart, an old garden favorite with big, rose-pink flowers on long stems reaching from a beautiful mass of blue-green foliage.
I’m sorry to say I can’t promise an equal number of blooming beauties every month, but I do hope to begin blogging again on a more regular basis.
In the meantime, remember these words written by Christopher Lloyd: “An early spring is always tremendously encouraging, and never mind what follows in the way of April frosts, or what have you. The great thing in life is to fling yourself into wholehearted enjoyment of the present, whenever there’s something to be enjoyed.”