Trilliums on parade is the best way to describe the trillium collection at Huntsville Botanical Garden. Anyone who likes these pretty wildflowers and wants to see lots of different species should visit the nature trails and wildflower garden. The collection, which is partially maintained by the Huntsville Wildflower Society, is one of the largest in the country. Trillium is a genus of woodland wildflowers that like shade and rich woodland soil. They are known for a unique growth habit of three leaves in an umbrella-like pattern and delicate flowers in early to mid-spring. You may know it by the name of "wake robin."
Try Flowers Up Close
A charming way to dress up your house and enjoy flowers from both the outside and from your favorite easy chair indoors is to put them in key places. Hanging baskets on a porch, a large container on a deck and window boxes all should fit the bill. Good candidates for this include bright flowers and pretty foliage. Combine them with small ornamental grasses, ivy or other sturdy foliage for long-lasting pizzazz. Add some water-retaining polymer to window boxes so you don’t have to water as often. When possible, you can even set them up with a simple drip irrigation tube from a nearby spigot.
Huechera and Huecherella
The pretty foliage you’ve seen in the nursery in recent years is a product of some fancy breeding.
Huecheras (coral bells) are native wildflowers. They have been hybridized with another wildflower, foamflower (Tiarella species). The results are hybrids with some beautiful foliage. However, it pays to test these new hybrids in your garden before buying too many because some perform better than others in our heat. For example, Quicksilver, which has a silvery-green leaf, has performed well at the University of Georgia trial gardens. In winter, the leaves turn red and hug the ground. Some of the fancy, colored varieties need ample moisture but excellent drainage through summer. The outer leaves tend to die back if stressed.
It’s Not Too Early to Get Your Drip
Now is a good time to beat the rush and think about how you are going to water your flowers and vegetables this summer. Put key beds on soaker hoses or drip irrigation to make watering easier. Sometimes pots can be set up with one, too. It takes a little planning and some work to set it up; but, once it’s done, you can cruise the rest of the season. Now is the time to buy these items while they are still plentiful. During the drought a couple of years ago, I could hardly find a soaker hose. They were back ordered. Check with your local Quality Co-op for drip tubing and soaker hoses.
Candytuft Deserves More Attention
I don’t see as much candytuft as I used to, but it’s a great little perennial with white spring flowers that behaves itself, stays pretty and evergreen through the year even when not in bloom. The trick to candytuft is good drainage and a little trimming after it blooms to keep the plants full. Because it is a perennial, you can plant it and it will come back each year, if the location is sunny and well-drained. It mixes well with spring bulbs, too. I’ve seen it used as a blanket underneath daffodils. If you like candytuft, early spring is the time to buy it because it is hard to find other times of the year; everything sells better when it’s in bloom.
If you’re a gardener who likes to beat the weather and set out tomato plants early in hopes of having your first in May, I recommend Season StarterTM Plant Protector to protect plants from the cold. A wall of water that heats up during the day shelters each tomato; at night it protects the plant from cold. Last year, I set out plants in a raised bed the first week of March in these covers and dug them up about three weeks later just to see if they had sprouted any new roots; I was shocked to see they had. A raised bed warms up faster than the ground, so I think that might have been one reason. Anyway, for gardeners who like to push the limits, try these. Remember to plant the tomato deeply so it will sprout roots along the stem.
Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.