Wild flowers

Beginning in late February with helleborus and snowdrops, then crocus and daffodil, dogwoods, redbud, and magnolia, through December with late autumn blooming camellias and mahonias, there are more flowers in this garden than I could possibly count. There are single daisies and double peonies, dainty blooms and monstrous hydrangeas, and flowers with amazing coloration and configurations.

Some flowers are ordinary, colorful en masse, but not distinctive, while others are a masterpiece of composition, superior to anything man can create. Better to be seen close up, where unique shapes and patterns can be appreciated fully.

For a large planting bed, look to tulips and daylilies, shrub roses and azaleas. Here, color matter most, lots of it, and viewing is intended from a distance. In my overplanted jungle of a garden, the remaining open space is precious, a nook here and a cranny there, and the quality of the bloom is more important than the quantity. These are the plants on my spring shopping list.  

Iris, especially Japanese iris (Iris ensata variegata, above) that thrive in the shallows of the garden ponds and in damp ground. There are more versions of this plant than I could possibly collect, and each is a delight, with bright colors and distinctive markings.

Siberian and Louisiana iris, and, well, just about any variety will be a splendid addition to the garden. I have found these to be a low maintenance, pest free, perennial solution in difficult wet areas. A handful of varieties will assure a month or more of bloom, and I’m certain to add a few (maybe more) this spring.

Peruvian lilies (Alstromeria,above) are said to be somewhat aggressive, but in this garden where are they to go? At every turn there are trees or shrubs to shade its path, limiting the spread of even the worst offenders, so I’ve experienced no problems at all. Peruvian lilies bloom for months, and there are few blooms that can compare to their beauty. I have hardy types in the garden, and a couple tender ones wintering in the basement.Passion flower vine

There are annual and hardy perennial forms of Passion flower vine (Passiflora, above), and while the annual varieties of many plants are often more colorful, the winter hardy passion flower common to the Washington D.C. area that I’ve planted is a marvel, second to none in beauty. Similar to many vines, it’s a fast grower, so it needs a bit of attention to keep it in bounds, but it’s well worth the effort.   

I began a few years back with one Toad lily (Tricyrtis, above) and was enamored with the small, oddly shaped late summer blossoms. This, of course, led to planting another, and another, and this year I’ll need to add a few of the yellow flowering types. To the thinking of some this is reason enough not to get started at all, but why suffer a garden without a beauty so grand?

The flowers of Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus,above) are not so colorful, nor so odd as to standout in the garden, but the reddish-brown blooms are unusual and sweetly fragrant. This woody shrub grows with an open habit in my shady garden, but will be more compact with more sunlight. This spring I am determined to locate the yellow flowering variety I have seen at the University of Georgia botanical garden.

When I find it, and the other treasures planned for spring purchase, the garden will still be far from complete. There are too few years in this lifetime, and too many flowers of incomparable beauty.

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