A highlight of our Perennial Pandemonium this past weekend was an inspiring talk called "Woodland Wonders from the Wild" by Barry Glick, plantsman extraordinaire and owner of Sunshine Farm and Gardens in West Virginia.
Before getting to the plants, Barry related how he became so plant-obsessed, and growing up in the Philadelphia area had a lot to do with it. (It's earned its reputation as the public garden capital of North America, with so many of the very best within a few miles of the city.) Barry started by growing houseplants and his passion for plants led him to buy 60 mountaintop acres back in 1972. As an original "hippie homesteader," Barry wears his tie-dyed T-shirts with pride.
Barry showed us photos of his homestead, complete with such heavy and necessary equipment as a snowplow, and lamented that the abundance of deer (and other plant-destroying wildlife) led him to specialize in Hellebores because - thank heaven! - animals don't eat them. Barry has devoted six acres to them.
But his other great love is for plants native to the woodlands of West Virginia, and he collected photos 80 or so of them to tempt us with. Here are some of my favorites.
Shown in the top photo, Wild Geranium and Wild Bleeding Heart are two native plants that look very similar to nonnative counterparts that we see in gardens, which must be why they caught my eye. They're two of my all-time favorite plants and who knew there were native equivalents? Well, not me.
Golden Ragwort in April.
Golden ragwort is a plant I've only recently discovered in a neighbor's garden. After offering me a few of them, the neighbor told me they need coddling at first but would soon be seeding wildly and covering large swaths of garden if I let them. Barry has found them to be just as vigorous.
Native Carex pensylvanica line a path.
Carexes I already know and love, but had no idea there are 128 different species of them. Most are suitable for shady spots, so Barry recommends them for those areas that are too shade-challenged to grow a nice thick lawn.
Virginia Bluebells paired with blue Hostas.
Virginia bluebells makes a great show in the spring, then disappear for the rest of the season. So, what to do? Barry suggests planting them with Christmas ferns, which are evergreen. Audience members offered their own favorite companion plants for bluebells - including Hostas and Begonia grandis. Great suggestions!
Companion plants for Virginia Bluebells: Begonia Grandis and Christmas Fern.
On the right is the 'Purple Dome' variety of New England Aster, which Barry recommends because its short stature enables its flowers to hide the foliage. Aster leaves are sometimes made unattractive by mildew.