in which i tempt karma by finding ALL OF THE THINGS

a few years ago i got this great book that focused on native plantings and living habitat gardens and there was an insane spread of a plant called neviusia alabamensis, or alabama snow wreath.  it was gorgeous and fun and hard to find so immediately i knew i had to have it.  in the intervening time, i have twice managed to come across it.  the first time, i planted it, and it didn’t do quite what i hoped.  i think the plant was young and not quite robust enough for the benign neglect i forced it to endure over an extremely hot summer.


the second time, i ended up overwintering it in a pot by accident.  it’s a tough plant and appears to still be alive and i planted some last weekend, but today, at long last, i had a real chance to rectify my error by finding a place that had loads of it in multiple sizes and was happy to fedex it to me before the weekend.

i was on a roll, because it turned out they also had some of my favorite insane/hard-to-find must-haves in their monarch butterfly host plant collection.

Asclepias variegata
Asclepias amplexicaulis

then, my favorite mail-order nursery FINALLY had the baptisias on their buy 3-get-one-free sale, which i have been waiting for for months.  i immediately splurged on 6 new additions and they were all free because i found an american express gift card in my bag.  true story.


THEN.  a nursery i go to a lot emailed me to say that a tree i had been looking for had just come in stock.  boom.


i should quit now.  it’s never gonna get better than this.


about those new beds…

i have this very troublesome area under a weird patch of trees. it’s sort of open shade, but kind of full shade, and very occasionally gets partial sunlight.  it’s moist, i guess.  definitely not dry or sandy.

it really is a perfect spot for some woodland wildflowers, but i’d been struggling with the appropriate plant mix for over a year. last year, it was a repository for some cool, half-baked thoughts (purple palace heucheras, primroses, a very rare and awesome epimedium called ‘the giant’) but not a lot of follow-through or execution.

i’d developed, sort of accidentally-on-purpose, a purple and yellow color scheme, and to this i added a ‘molly the witch’ shade-tolerant peony (yellow), and a ‘kiki’s broom’ magnolia (purple).  and i got some of my drive from this awesome combo of actea simplex and japanese forest grass:


okay, so here’s the moodboard:


and here’s the cut-and-paste version from my design notebook:


i’m toying with the idea of trying some terrestrial orchids, but i am not going to order any yet.  i’d rather wait until my local native nursery opens, and talk to them about potential easy(ish)-to-grow varieties for an orchid novice.

‘woodland wildflower garden’ design from perennial combinations by c. colston burrell

and then, finally, comes the design breakthrough – and i had it all along. this past weekend i was perusing my favorite garden design book and found the inspiration sketch right there on page 353. it’s the ‘woodland wildflower garden’, which not only fits the space perfectly but complements what i have, perhaps with some slight nudging around of already-planted specimens.

1 – originally slated as a white baneberry, i found this cool terrestrial orchid (not a lady’s-slipper) from plant delights and added it to my birthday order. the color fits perfectly and it has a reputation for being easier to grow than its native american counterpart.


2 – bloodroot, as directed, but the blush form, to keep the color scheme more homogenous and pleasing. i splurged on this little guy from lazy s.




3 – subbing out the virginia bluebells – i have a better spot for them – and bringing in this super-cute variegated form of merry bells (Uvularia perfoliata ‘Jingle Bells’, also from plant delights, also part of the birthday bash)




4- celandine poppy, and i’m not going to mess with a classic. been keen to try this one out since i read margaret roach’s raves about it on the a way to garden blog.


polystichum-acrostichoides1-i-0295-s-62132-r-01   Athyrium niponicum 'Lemon Cream' (Lemon Cream Japanese Painted Fern)   burgundy lace japanese painted fern

5 – i’m going to go with a combo of ferns here, to stay true to the color scheme but also to the intent of the design. so i’m sticking with the christmas fern suggested by the author, but added some color with two painted ferns.



6 – ‘home fires’ creeping phlox (phlox stolonifera), as directed but with a color change.



7 – woodland phlox.  i LOVE woodland phlox.  it’s so delicate-looking, and the flowers are tiny and star-shaped.  what is not to love?




8 – trilliums, definitely part of the birthday splurge. these were a hefty price, but they are seedlings, so that means that i can nudge them toward multiplying and giving me many more of my very own.




9 – hello, gorgeous! a chinese mayapple too interesting to refuse swaps out for the umbrella plant originally intended. i think it is going to be a star.