I’m reminiscing, looking back in time to what I consider to be the best year that my garden has experienced in its rather short existence. The year was 2009, one that went down in history books as being one of the wettest and chilliest. It seemed every direction you turned, you heard someone or other whining about the weather. On days like such, I simply tucked my chin towards my chest and carried on my way. It was better to say nothing at all, than to take their bait and enter into what was the biggest gardening argument of the season. I had places to go, and gardens to see! Well, truth be told it was one place in particular, my own personal Eden, that I was anxious to return to!
My Zone 5 shaded garden is home to a bevy of rare and unusual shade tolerant plants that enjoy cool temperatures and a slightly damp disposition. In other years I’d struggled, trying to keep on top of the watering to ensure that my ‘kids’ didn’t droop and expire in the sometimes near suffocating heat and humidity. That year though, it was as if the Gods had peered into my soul and discovered someone who liked it cool and damp, and in a moment of generosity, deemed that the summer of 2009 would be my ideal growing season.
I had spent much of the Spring doing some rearranging of sorts. Because the main artery of my Shaded Walk is long and narrow – often times I would find myself tip-toeing over and around my precious plants – I decided it was time to add a few stepping stones. Of course this was only agreed upon after I’d crushed a few of my choicest selections, including Veratrum nigrum, which has come back as if to say it understood how its trampling under my size elevens might have been possible. considering the narrowness of the pathway – if indeed it could even be referred to as such!
Everything looked lush; the textural effect that I’d gone to so much trouble to when I first decided to add a Shaded Walk was starting to fill into itself quite handsomely! I’d always been one to toss conformity out the window with a few other cardinal gardening rules, such as the one regarding Zones, but I’ll touch upon that a wee bit later! For the time being I simply want to revel in the year that was!
Everything in the garden responded in a most positive manner to the cooler and consistently damp weather. Even some of my Spring bulbs decided they’d ‘hang around’ a bit longer, including a personal favourite Nectaroscordum siculum var. ‘Bulgaricum’ with its fabulously pendulous bell shaped flowers that are striped cream, green, and magenta!
In mentioning that I enjoy some of the more rare and unusual botanical wonders, perhaps its fitting to introduce a few along the way. Dainty as it is, one of the most spectacular flowers belongs to Codonopsis clematidea, a divine trailing plant that, like its name, suggests a Clematis-like growth habit. One has to adopt an up-close-and-personal relationship in order to best appreciate the beauty of its bellflower shaped flowers with its intricate patterning of orange, yellow, purple and green on its inside. Unfortunately this beguiling plant is often over-looked because of the unfortunate odor that it exhibits when its delicate somewhat tomentose foliage is bruised in the least way!
Having dubbed myself a ‘shady characters’ many years ago, I’ve come to rely upon big, bold, startling foliage plants to add an element of interest to a border than might otherwise lose itself within a sea of green. I knew, as soon as I laid eyes upon it, that Syneilesis aconitifolia would be one such ‘startling’ member to reside along the newly completed Shaded Walk. It demands your full and immediate attention from the time its fuzzy, shredded umbrella-like stems poke up from the soil in early Spring, and continues to hold you spellbound as they open up to even greater magnificence as the season progresses!
** Stay tuned for Part Two