My Top Ten March Blooms

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.


Halesia carolina

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

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.


Jeffersonia diphylla

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.


Mertensia virginica

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.


Rhododendron austrinum

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.


Helleborus foetidus

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.


Dicentra spectabilis

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.”

43 thoughts on “My Top Ten March Blooms

  1. Chloris

    Oh how lovely Marian, spring really has arrived early in your garden. These woodland treasures are amongst my favourite flowers. I love your beautiful halesia but it can’t cope with my soil. I’ve killed two so I suppose I will have to accept defeat. On the other hand do you think it would do in a large pot for a few years? Oh and your trilliums are so pretty. It’s all gorgeous; it sounds as if you are enjoying a wonderful spring. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful blooms.

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Chloris, I would give the pot a try. Experts say halesia needs acidic soil. The ones I’ve seen in the wild are always on a slope, so exceptionally good drainage is probably also essential. We’ve been lucky to have a stretch of moderate weather, with daytime highs in the 50s & 60s and nighttime lows in the 40s and upper 30s, which has brought the flowers out slowly and will prolong their bloom if it lasts. It was slightly warmer today but there is a small chance of freezing weather on Saturday night. If we can get past that hump, we will probably be okay.

  2. Susan Temple

    Hey ma’am. My cousin-in-laws live on 123 headed towards Powdersville/Easley from White Horse Rd. Across the highway from them (2940 New Easley Hwy to be exact) is a place that was a golf course which went belly up. Then it was sold for development and it seems that idea has fallen through also. The woods are LOADED with may apples. Since you have had privy to rescuing plants in the past, didn’t know if this was something some Greenville people would be interested in pursuing. I am not as active as I have been in the past with the Native Plant Society and don’t really know anyone anymore. In the in-laws woods are lots of buckeyes and bellwort also, haven’t seen any trillium yet. They are working on clearing out the ivy so these jewels are being uncovered. They are not plant people but I’m trying to educate them. Happy spring fever to you.

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    Marian St.Clair posted: “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 “

  3. Beth @ PlantPostings

    Thank you: This post is a breath of fresh air, as we’re unseasonably cold here in the Midwest. Thank you for the Lloyd quote: It is encouraging. The foliage on Helleborus foetidus is, indeed, unique and lovely–as attractive as the flowers!

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Beth–We’ve been skating on thin ice for the last month and our average last frost date is April 15, so no one here is holding their breath. I do have my fingers crossed, however! Hope spring arrives for you soon.

  4. Jeannette Lindvig

    Hi Marian,

    You probably don’t remember me, but I gave your group a garden tram tour at Winterthur last year. Your spring blog entry is so spot on for garden guides here that I forwarded it to them all, and my boss. We have all these plants, except ajuga and old fashioned bleeding hearts, in the Winterthur garden.

    Enjoy spring!

    Jeannette Lindvig


    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Jeannette–It is so good to hear from you! I’ve always visited Winterthur in summer or early fall, but I would love to see the woodland garden in spring. I know it must be amazing!

  5. susurrus

    Those trilliums are especially beautiful given the way the flowers are catching the sunlight. They always seem an unusual plant in almost every way. I wish they were more common in England. It’s good to have you back!

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Susan–It’s good to be back, but it was also a well-needed rest. The trilliums are especially beautiful this year. We had a dry autumn but a lot of rain in January and February that has really made a difference in the garden.

  6. Libby

    Very nice to see you back here! So very refreshing and wonderful to see so many plants here, all loving the Spring. Bleeding Hearts are one of my favorites and I finally bought some last year, having always had them up North. Well, seems they were mis-marked and are all red! Not bad, but I really wanted the traditional pink. You just never know!

  7. An Eye For Detail

    Very nice to see you back here! So very refreshing and wonderful to see so many plants here, all loving the Spring. Bleeding Hearts are one of my favorites and I finally bought some last year, having always had them up North. Well, seems they were mis-marked and are all red! Not bad, but I really wanted the traditional pink. You just never know!

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Jules–Thanks, I have to admit I missed writing the blog, but the time away provided a much-need rest. I think I might have to back track a little though, as some great stuff happened in the last couple of months. Stay tuned…

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Judy–The forecast shows a small chance of freezing weather on Saturday night, so I’m hoping we squeak through. Perhaps you will have the best of both worlds, as you will get to see spring twice!

  8. germac4

    I enjoy looking at all the Northern Hemisphere spring blossoms and it inspires my Autumn planting.. We had Bleeding Hearts in our garden when we lived in Sydney .. I miss them!

  9. Barbara Whitaker

    Thank you. Ít has been a strange spring in the Mid-Ohio Valley. Rain. Floods. Warm weather. Then snow. The daffodils did fine. The Forsthia came out this weekend. But our magnolias took a hit with the frost. And tomorrow, after snow today, it’s to be 70 and storms.

  10. Marian St.Clair Post author

    Gerrie–I agree, it’s great fun reading gardening posts from around the world and there’s so much to gain in inspiration and knowledge. I’ve always loved bleeding hearts, but this is the first garden where I have been able to grow them with success. I guess that means there is at least ONE good thing about shade.

  11. Pauline

    Its good to have you back with us once more Marian. All your woodland plants are beautiful, I have just planted a Trillium, will have to wait and see if it likes my woodland strip.

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Pauline–Good luck with the trillium, I hope it flourishes for you. I’ve read that it takes 7 years to grow a blooming plant from seed, but the plants do spread nicely one established.

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Auto–Yes, I took a group to Bartram’s garden on a tour and loved it! The Franklini alatamaha was in full bloom and I’ve been trying to grow one ever since. The first one was flourishing down by the river, but was taken by a beaver. The second, planted in late fall, didn’t make it through winter.

  12. Barbara Gantt

    Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your presentation to the Koi and Watergarden Society. You were such a delightful speaker! Glad to see your blog again!!

  13. Peggy Little

    Thank you for the beautiful spring photographs. There was a little sweet Betsy outside of my parents’ bedroom window at the homeplace. I can still smell the sweet fragrance of the bloom. Keep up the good work, Marian!

  14. Cathy

    A great update on what is growing for you now Marian. I would love to grow Virginia bluebells, but have completely the wrong conditions! So I am always glad when someone posts some photos of them. 🙂 And your last photo is a nice reminder of what is to come here… I shall go
    and look for the fresh shoots of my Bleeding Hearts now. Love that quote too! 🙂

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Cathy–I’m planting more bluebells this spring…they are such pretty flowers with their pink buds that become a brilliant blue as they mature. Hope you found your shoots!

  15. rusty duck

    Hello stranger and welcome back!
    Oh how I wish I could grow trilliums. I also wish I knew why they always fail and then maybe I could find a better spot for them. If Pauline succeeds I’ll try again.

    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Jessica–There is something really satisfying about seeing the trilliums–which have grown here for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years, flourish. When we moved to this home, the land above the river was swamped with ivy, but we found one clump of trilliums and it spurred us on to clear the slopes of the invasive plant. Each spring, now, I find more trilliums and bloodroot popping up, as their rhizomes regenerate with increased moisture and sunlight.

  16. Sharon Lanier

    Marian, I was thrilled to see your blog pop up in my email! I have missed them so, but know you needed some well deserved down time.
    The photos are stunning! I bought the Blue Moon phlox today. Christolph’s quote is so timely and true. Joie de Vivre !!!

    Sharon Lanier

  17. Brian Skeys

    Christopher Lloyd wrote many wise words and your plants are proving him correct in this case. I grow one trillium, in a pot which I place on an outdoor table each spring. They are beautiful plants.

  18. Les

    Your blooms are way more open than ours, but everything here has been on hold. March was been the second part of February. A bright spot has been the incredibly long bloom time for Narcissus this year.


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