Woodland Plants for Spring

Woodland Plants for Spring

Part of Ep. 1703 Ideas for Spring

Neil Diboll, owner of Prairie Nursery Pardeeville, recommends woodland plants for the garden. Favorite plants include red baneberry, trilliums, Virginia Bluebells, Maple Leaved Alum Root, jack-in-the-pulpit, and wild geranium.

Premiere date: May 06, 2009

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Spring is such a gorgeous time in Wisconsin and there are many wonderful plants you can add to a woodland to make your garden even more beautiful.  We're in Pardeeville.  We're in the woodland garden of Neil Diboll owner of Prairie Nursery.  Neil, I look at this and I just think, you've got so much color and texture.  Let's talk about some of your favorites that you recommend to other people.

Neil:
There's so many to choose from, but let's focus on some of them.

Shelley:
Let's try to narrow it down.

Neil:
One of my absolute favorites is the red baneberry, you can see here it has excellent architectural form, beautiful flowers, and right now, it's got wonderful white flowers.

Shelley:
So where does the red come in?

Neil:
The red comes in when it goes to seed in July.  And a lot of times you think of a woodland garden as just the spring, the flowers they bloom and then they're gone.
Shelley:
And that tends to be when it's the most colorful.

Shelley:
It is, yes.

Neil:
But the red baneberry has beautiful deep red berries in midsummer that add that interest, not only the foliage, but now the berries, so you get really season-long interest out of these.  It likes a pretty good soil.

Shelley:
Okay, rich soil.

Neil:
Rich soil, anything well-drained, it doesn't like it wet.

Shelley:
And dense shade or part?

Neil:
Part shade.  Don't put it in too dense a shade, because then it won't perform as well.  It likes more of a dappled shade.

Shelley:
So kind of the lighting we're in right here, okay.

Neil:
Exactly.

Shelley:
Okay, now here's one of my favorites, the trilliums.  These are beautiful.

Neil:
Large Flowered Trilliums are fantastic.  And as you can see, there are several flowers that are white.  And some that are turning pink.

Shelley:
Why do you have pink ones in there?

Neil:
Well, as the flowers age, and start to drop their petals, they will go from white to pink, so you really get two colors in one with the large flowered trillium.

Shelley:
So even though it looks like two plants, it's all the same one, just at different stages.  Those are gorgeous.  Those add such a nice touch to any woodland garden.

Neil:
And you know what about trilliums?  A lot of people think they're these delicate little plants.

Shelley:
Yeah.

Neil:
They're not, they're tough as nails.

Shelley:
Really?

Neil:
Yes.  You can dig them up when they're blooming and move them around, they won't even feel it.  You've got to take care of them.

Shelley:
Right.

Neil:
Move them, water them in, they'll never skip a beat.

Shelley:
And again, shade, mostly?

Neil:
They like shade, but a little bit of dappled light.

Shelley:
So buy a good clump and then once they're happy you can divide them and move them around.

Neil:
They divide, but it takes a long time.  Many years to get them to a dividable point, but yes you can.

Shelley:
Once they're there, excellent.

Neil:
About four or five years, you can dig them up and get three or four more bulbs.

Shelley:
Excellent.  Okay, look at this.

Neil:
Isn't this beautiful?

Shelley:
That's one of my favorites.

Neil:
It's Virginia Bluebells.  It starts with the pinkish-red bud, opens up to the pure blue flower, and this also has a need for a pretty good soil.  It doesn't like it dry.  It needs it slightly damp, or just a good, rich garden soil.  And, by mid-July, completely gone.

Shelley:
Vanish.  I know, I always go out and think, what happened, where'd they go?

Neil:
People think their plants died.  But in fact, they're just spring bloomers, hence the name, spring ephemeral.

Shelley:
Right, they're fleeting.

Neil:
And that's why I planted it here with the wild ginger to cover it up.

Shelley:
So you have a ground cover so that when they vanish it doesn't look like you've got this empty spot.

Neil:
And another great plant, although not native to Wisconsin, this is native to the eastern woodlands.  This is Heuthera villosa, which has a wonderful reddish leaf.

Shelley:
So you've got color even when it isn't blooming.

Neil:
Yes, and the common name is Maple Leaved Alum Root.  As you can see, kind of looks like maple.

Shelley:
Yeah, it does.

Neil:
Well, it's good all season long, and it has a really lovely white flower.  It will be interesting later in the season, so it extends the garden into later spring after many other flowers are gone.

Shelley:
And it's something to remember that in a woodland, especially with a lot of shade, sometimes foliage is what we do need to focus on.

Neil:
Foliage is really important in a woodland.

Shelley:
So there's a red color.  Now another one of my favorites back there, the jack in the pulpit.

Neil:
Oh yes, this is a great plant, this is a lot of people's favorite.  And you can see look at the beautiful purple foliation.  And little insects will go in here and pollinate the plant.  And if you don't have anything else to do, it's fun to watch the bugs go in there.

Shelley:
I always think, that belongs in a kid's garden, because it looks like there's a little guy standing there, it's so neat.

Neil:
A great plant.  And another thing about jack-in-the-pulpit is in the fall, it has red berries, too.

Shelley:
That's right, that's right.  Some fall color there, too.

Neil:
Extending the season again.

Shelley:
And over here?  Another classic, I think.

Neil:
A wild geranium.  This is a great plant, not only from the standpoint of the beautiful pink flower, but it also has good foliage, holds up all season long until frost.  So it's a great addition to the garden, and if you put some other ground covers around it that will work too, or in this case I'm using ferns which kind of serve as a color and texture contrast.

Shelley:
And this can be in more places than just in a woodland, too.

Neil:
Good point, yes.  This likes not too dense a shade, but it grows in dappled shade, again, and in fact, sometimes if you have a north slope, you can plant it there in rich soil, and it will actually grow in what you consider full sun, but because it's on a north slope, it's protected from the spring direct rays of the sun.

Shelley:
Excellent, so that could really come in handy in a lot of problem spots.

Neil:
Absolutely.  And another trillium.

Shelley:
Ooh, I like this one.

Neil:
It's not very well known.  It's a prairie trillium, which is kind of a misnomer.

Shelley:
Wow, you're right.  Because we're not in the prairie, Neil.

Neil:
Full sun, but in fact, the prairie trillium is more of an oak savannah plant, it grows in dappled shades to moderately open, into even dense forest, so it's quite adaptable.

Shelley:
That is gorgeous.

Neil:
Not only do you get this lovely red flower, but look at that beautiful mottled foliage.

Shelley:
So again, you're getting more than one focal point.

Neil:
The foliage stands up pretty well over the summer.

Shelley:
Really?  Okay.  And again, it's happy here, so we're okay with that.  All right, one last one.  I know, you've got more than that!

Neil:
One other one!  When you look at the transition from the woodland into the prairie or a more sunny environment, there are a number of plants that do well in that situation.  And one of those is the wild blue phlox.

Shelley:
Excellent, beautiful.

Neil:
A beautiful plant, and it's in full bloom right now.  It just is great for naturalizing areas where you can get a nice little patch of it.

Shelley:
Let it spread.

Neil:
Let is spread as light wood flowers and it's absolutely gorgeous this time of year.

Shelley:
Thanks, Neil, I think I've got to steal everything from your yard and put it in my yard.

Neil:
Dig it up, dig it out.

Shelley:
Okay, thanks.

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