23 Feb 2012

In the Spotlight: Spigelia marilandica


There was a time when you would be hard pressed to find red and or yellow flowers anywhere in my gardens. In part because as a shady character, red flowers that are tolerant of shade are few and far between, but more importantly, I find the colour to be jarring to my nervousness! Of course then along comes Spigelia marilandica and everything changes in the blink of an eye!

Spigelia marilandica was discovered in 1690 in Maryland, and though it is found elsewhere, it has not been seen there [in Maryland] since! It is a most enchanting species with pleated barrel-shaped trumpets of brilliant scarlet outside, and is topped with five sharply pointed lobes, flaring, to reveal a bright yellow inside, curiously shaped like a perfect star! A clump forming perennial reaching heights between 35-60cm and is said to be hardy to Zone 6, but here in my Zone 5 garden, it returns methodically every year with a winter's protection of a bough of Abies balsamea placed atop its crown before frost hits in late Fall.

Often seen in rich woodlands and forests, primarily in limestone regions, but once again, in my more than slightly acidic Rare and Unusual Border, it thrives, so is likely tolerant of acidic soils as well. One plant truly is never enough when it comes to this beacon! Site four or five along a path, or like myself, use it as the thriller in a container planting nestled amongst rare and unusual ferns, where it will prove to be not only the centre of attention, but a conversation starter bar none! Take note that it is slow to emerge from the ground in the Spring, usually late May, so mark its placement carefully. With its stunning tubular shaped flowers, it is also of interest to local hummingbird populations, which flit and and out amongst its many blooms. Persistent dead heading will lengthen its bloom period. While this beguiling beauty is available from wildflower nurseries, it is still relatively uncommon in gardens and deserves more recognition and exposure. Take up the cause, grow Spigelia in your gardens this year!


Patty said...

I love this plant but lost three of them to bunnies. I am always tempted to buy more when I see them as they seem to be a rare find around here, but am worried I'd lose them again to the anmals. Tuck them in with something yellow or blue and they will stand out beautifully.

cheryl said...

After the foot of snow on Friday I was looking forward to an early spring, arghhh. This beauty is also on my seek list. Gorgeous!