Helen Chesnut: Native trilliums delight in spring

Of all the native plants in my garden, the trilliums are the most glamorous with their large, rich green foliage and glistening, three-petaled white flowers that age gracefully to pink and then to wine-purple.

My first trilliums were gifts from friends, a couple whose son had rescued them from demolition by an approaching road-clearing crew. He dug them up, and his parents bore the plants in a tub into my back garden.

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Every spring since being planted in a lightly shaded spot, those trilliums have flowered beautifully. One year, I found a big, ripe seed pod on one of the plants and dispersed the seeds in a wooded site, at the base of a tall tree stump beside the garden shed. The resulting plants have developed into a showy clump of foliage and flowers, one that I relish every April.

Some garden centres sell these native woodlanders, and Fraser’s Thimble Farms (thimblefarms.com) on Salt Spring Island are continually adding to their extensive roster of trilliums.

Thimble Farms also offers a wonderful choice in wood anemone (Anemone nemerosa) varieties, including a charming white, double-flowered form. My delightful patches of single blue and single white wood anemones have spread, but not invasively, here and there in the garden via slender rhizomes.

Wood anemone creates low carpets of finely divided leaves and flowers underneath rhododendrons and in other lightly shaded areas during April and May; they thrive as well in hot, sunny spots in the garden. Though these woodlanders are recommended as ground cover plants in shade, they have proven to be happily adaptable. The plants die back with warm summer weather.

 

Kale revisited. Now, before our kale plants begin turning woody and producing bitter greens in the warmth of May, is a reader’s comment on kale adventures in her garden.

Sharon wrote in response to the recipe for kale squares in a recent column: “We too have been enjoying the resurgence of our kale this month and have been steaming the broccoli-like sprouts. Our five-year old grandson enjoys eating fresh kale leaves from the garden and has developed his own tasty snack. He picks a nice kale leaf, puts one or two chive stems and a parsley sprig on top, rolls it up and calls it his kale-chive roll-up. It’s amazing how much fresh kale he can munch up while in the garden.”

Sharon’s grandson is not the only family member trying new kale ventures: “As an experiment last year, my husband moved (with plenty of soil around the roots) one kale plant, and staked it. He has continued to tie it up as needed. The plant is now over 150 cm tall and is still producing good kale. We have harvested the flowerbuds with their succulent stems and the plant keeps on producing more. I see the plant as my husband’s ‘baby.’

Once kale plants go into full flowering mode, if possible keep a few of them blooming in the garden for a while. The flowers are favourites of bees and other beneficial insects, creatures that work hard to keep our gardens productive and healthy.

Bear in mind too that kale plants, like some cabbages, are worthwhile experimenting with as perennials, keeping them over from year to year for as long as possible.

GARDEN EVENTS

Cactus meeting. Victoria Cactus and Succulent Society meets Monday at 7:30 p.m. in the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. In Saanich.

HCP courses. These courses are offered at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific. To register, call 250-479-6162. hcp.ca.

• Quick Start your Veggie Patch, Saturday, May 3, 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Lynda Dowling is inviting participants to her farm, Happy Valley Lavender, to demonstrate basic steps to start gardeners off on the road to success. Get answers to your questions, and return home with vegetable transplants. Cost to HCP members is $30, others $42.

• Willow Chair Workshop, Sunday, May 4, or Sunday, May 25, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Make and take home your own bent willow rustic chair. Learn how to make a square frame from pieces of alder and work with different sizes of willow to create a classic. All tools are provided. Work alone or with a friend. Bring a lunch. One chair including all materials $250.

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