New Plants for the Secret Garden: Garden Bloggers Bloom Day May 2017

– Posted in: Acquisitions, Native/Invasive, The Secret Garden, What's up/blooming

The Secret Garden has many plants native to our area, but it doesn’t have some spring ephemerals that grew at our old house, and it’s even lacking some that grow in a wild area further down the street from where we live now. This year, inspired by a sale, I decided to start rectifying that and placed an order with Amanda’s Garden. The plants arrived in beautiful condition and I planted them last Friday.

My goal for the Secret Garden is that it look natural. Of course, as soon as it became a garden, it was no longer 100% natural. I created paths and continue to maintain them by pruning branches and digging up choice plants (trilliums and Jacks-in-the-pulpit) that sprout in the path. That seems natural to visitors because they’re not expecting branches to slap them in the face anyway. They don’t realize that me pruning the pathway is what makes it easy to walk. I’m slowly but surely removing invasive shrubs and plants. I’ve also added benches to view the waterfall and a bird-watching frog because he amuses me and causes visitors to look twice.

frog with binoculars metal sculpture

Imagine rounding the curve of a woodland path and suddenly coming upon a 3-foot bird watching frog!

For the most part, I’ve only added plants that are native to eastern North America–even if I’ve never seen them grow around here. The two exceptions are snowdrops and Primula japonica. Most visitors wouldn’t be able to tell which flowers were planted and which grew there naturally. Of course I try to plant my acquisitions where they will grow well, but I also try to place them where they are easily viewed from the path or a bench–that’s not natural either, but it’s also something no one would think twice about. I keep adding more to increase the diversity and my pleasure in the garden. Let’s take a stroll and admire the latest additions, shall we?
Uvularia grandiflora

Large-flowered bellwort (Uvularia grandiflora) from Amanda’s Garden

The flower is a much brighter yellow than what was growing in the woods where we used to live:
uvularia grandiflora

This bellwort growing wild at our former home has a much paler flower.

I planted my bright bellwort on a slight slope visible from the lower bench. Fun fact: Bellwort is in the Colchicum family.
Dicentra canadensis

Next I planted Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis) on the lower path.

In my picture above, you can see the flower stem extending horizontally to the right. It was upright when I planted it, but it’s been pretty windy. Squirrel corn grows in a wild area further down our road. Here’s what it looked like last Friday:
squirrel corn

Growing in natural conditions, the flower stalk of squirrel corn is shorter than the nursery grown one.

Thalictrum anemonella thalictroides

Next I planted rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides) on the opposite side of the same path, next to a Virginia bluebells.

Enemion biternatum

I thought I had seen rue anemone growing at the old house, but I think it was actually wood anemone (Anemone quinquefolia). What do you think?

After that I planted Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), but I can’t find it. I think an animal already ate it. The leaves look very similar to Squirrel Corn, but the flowers are earlier and look like upside down pants (sorta). Both of these plants have corms that rodents find tasty, and when you plant native flora, you always run the risk that the native fauna will enjoy it just as much as you do. There’s a reason Squirrel Corn is called corn, and Dutchman’s Breeches is no different.
hepatica acutiloba

Further up the path, on a slope, I planted five hepaticas (Hepatica acutiloba).

Yes, five! I had planted one hepatica (also called liverwort) here a couple of years ago as a test, and it hasn’t died. I’ve always wanted a patch of it because it blooms so early, so I got myself a patch. Some of the plants had seed heads, which the arrow is pointing to. With all the plants in my order, I hope they will seed around and make themselves at home, but this is the year of the liverwort and I really wanted to encourage it. Down the road from us, hepaticas bloom in a range of colors.
Hepatica acutiloba, white flowered liverwort


Hepatica acutiloba lavender liverwort


Hepatica acutiloba, pink-flowered liverwort


Hepatica acutiloba, blue liverwort.

and not quite blue.

I hope my five represent a range of colors.
Dodecatheon meadia

On a side path that connects the main path with the lawn, I planted a shooting star (Dodecatheon meadia).

Decades ago, I saw a pink shooting star on a walk through a rural area near the mobile home we lived in before our first house. They are enchanting and we’ll just have to see if it likes it here.
lilium superbum

Finally, I walked over the the southern end of the property and planted Turk’s-cap lily (Lilium superbum) near a swampy area that’s not quite a pond.

I tried this one at our old house and it got eaten. Maybe I will have better luck this time! It would be lovely to see a clump of them from the bench that’s nearby.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our virtual stroll. The time when these woodland beauties bloom is quite fleeting and not everyone gets a chance to see them.

Inspired by the words of Elizabeth Lawrence, “We can have flowers nearly every month of the year,” Carol of May Dreams Gardens started Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. On the 15th of every month, garden bloggers from all over the world publish what is currently blooming in their gardens. Check it out at May Dreams Gardens.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

commonweeder May 18, 2017, 6:48 am

I love your woodland garden. Once again I have a mostly sunny garden, but I do have some shade and I’m trying to add some of those delicate natives.

Kathy Purdy May 18, 2017, 3:24 pm

Pat, I think amending the soil with leaf mold makes the biggest difference when trying to grow woodland plants.

Bryant John May 18, 2017, 12:32 am

This is a beautiful woodland garden thanks for sharing!

Tina Martino May 17, 2017, 3:36 am

What a transformation! What you did in this woodland garden is really impressive. I have been gardening with my husband and you gave us an idea that we can turn woodlands into another garden. Thanks. You can also check our website @ 🙂

Linda from Each Little World May 16, 2017, 1:36 pm

Great plant selection. Hepaticas are so beautiful and great foliage. Really enjoyed reading this and your thought/design process. Most garden visitors don’t realize in a garden like you describe that the gardener has had a hand in it.

Rokon Z May 16, 2017, 12:04 pm

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.I think you theses long time about Gardening.

Leslie May 16, 2017, 11:23 am

You are doing such a nice thoughtful job of developing this garden!

Lea May 16, 2017, 8:09 am

I have enjoyed seeing your woodland garden – very pretty!
And wow, what a frog! I love it!

Kathy Sturr May 16, 2017, 7:33 am

I love, love, love it all! I think I am a woodland garden girl at heart. I am also a fan of Amanda’s Garden and hope to visit it one day in person, but I’ve mail ordered quite a few natives for the Violet Fern Garden. This year I ordered white wood aster, anemone virginiana, and stiff goldenrod. All the plants I’ve ordered from Amanda’s have done very well. Now you have me wondering if I planted squirrel corn or dutchman’s breeches. I dug it up from the lake as it was growing in the drive. It has come up in the Violet Fern Garden but has yet to bloom. It may take another year. I love shooting star. Mine survived! I hope to see its blooms soon. I look forward to the day I can plant drifts of native woodland plants at the lake and possibly have a maintained path such as you, maybe even a cute bird watching frog, too! I also look forward to seeing this secret garden again. It was a wonderful morning stroll, thank you.

Joanne Toft May 16, 2017, 7:30 am

What fun to have land enough to build a wild garden. In Mpls,Mn. We have one that is now run by the park system. It was started by school teachers a long time ago. If you are ever in this are you should check it out. Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Kathy Purdy May 16, 2017, 7:41 am

Joanne, I feel very grateful to be able to have this woodland garden. There is a wildflower garden at Cornell, too.

Marianne May 16, 2017, 6:52 am

Plants look like in the wild. I think no one can think that these plants are planted in a special way. Great work!

Stephen Horsfield May 16, 2017, 2:16 am

It was really nice to see what you are doing in a very different climate.

A Guide to Northeastern Gardening May 15, 2017, 6:30 pm

Your secret garden is so lush and natural looking and I enjoyed your anemone and liverwort. Thank you for sharing!