By Chuck Gleaves
As of the writing of this blog, spring has been so slow in coming I wonder if the plants I will be mentioning will be out, as they normally would, by the time this blog is posted. If they are not blooming yet they should be coming soon.
Most of our gardens are in regularly mulched and amended soils, high in organic matter, evenly moist, well drained and otherwise carefully crafted for luxurious growth for most of our favorite garden plants. There are, however, many plants that are better suited to specialized soils such as wet, dry, gravely, lean, acidic or alkaline. For mid to late April, four different plants come to mind that will be offering their best floral display and are grown in specialized sites.
The Western Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) is rarely seen in gardens east of its native range and blooms later and more colorfully than our local native Skunk Cabbage. Our now retired gardener, Glenna Sheaffer, acquired several specimens and planted them in the requisite shady wet site in what we call our Woodland Garden just north-east of Kingwood Hall.
Also in the Woodland Garden (and elsewhere) and blooming this time of year is our native Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris). This is a popular native plant that blooms prolifically in wet and swampy woodlands. Fowler Woods is a nature preserve just north of Mansfield where Marsh Marigold can be seen in all its prolific, naturally occurring beauty.
In late April and early May our herb garden features a abundantly blooming perennial called Basket of Gold (Aurinia saxatilis). Once again, it was Glenna Sheaffer who found just the right spot for this plant to display its glories. Glenna was tasked with growing plants in the narrow crevices between large slabs of vertically stacked limestone. Moisture was only available from the interior of the raised planter, because the vertical stacking prevented rainwater from entering directly into the crevices. After complaining that it couldn’t be done, Glenna came up with an assortment of plants that could cope with this challenging growing site and Basket of Gold is the most spectacular of them.
There are several varieties of plants all referred to as “Rock Cress”. One of those (Aubrieta x cultorum) has been growing in its specialized site at Kingwood long before even the most senior of our current staff began working here. It is a perfect rock wall plant that not only drapes over a wall while rooting in the soil behind, but it will also grow between the rocks in crevices on the side of the wall. It is well suited, as well, for patio crevices from which it can spread out and cover large portions of hard surfaces.