Wild columbine is native to North America and can be found growing in open woodlands and along roadsides from eastern Canada through northern Florida, and westward into New Mexico. It is a hardy perennial that grows two to three feet tall and is best propagated by seed.
Its most noteworthy characteristic is its unusual, nodding reddish flower shaped like a bonnet, with elegant long spurs. These flowers bloom from late April to June making it very popular in mixed perennial beds and borders.
Columbine thrives in fertile loamy soil in sun or partial shade, but it is best grown in light shade. It prefers moist, sheltered locations, but can tolerate dry shade as well as some air pollution.
Wild bleeding heart is named for its heart-shaped flower that appears as if there is a drop of blood forming at its base. It is a woodland native that can be found from New Jersey to West Virginia and throughout the Appalachian Mountain range. This herbaceous perennial does well in both sunny and shady sites in moist soil. Increased sun however, will increase flower production and extend the flowering period. Dicentra forms 12-18 inch clumps of grayish-green, fern-like leaves. Its showy pink, occasionally white flowers begin to appear in late spring and continue in flushes until autumn giving an appearance of nonstop blooming.
Easy to grow and great for naturalizing, wild bleeding heart does not have any serious insect or disease problems but is a great source of nectar for bumblebees. Somewhat difficult to start from seed, it is easy to propagate from division and, once established will self-propagate and last for many years.
Cardinal flower is recognized by its striking spires of red summer flowers contrasted with the dark green leaves. They grow best in moist, fertile, humus-rich soil and in sun or partial shade. They can tolerate flooding but not drought making them suitable for waterside plantings or damp borders. They will require regular watering if used in a perennial bed.
Cardinal flower blooms from July to September throughout the eastern half of the US. It has a striking, deep red blossom which is pollinated by ruby-throated hummingbirds. In spite of its spirited color, the plant contains poisonous alkaloids and ingestion has caused deaths in humans.
The Christmas fern is a lovely, evergreen fern that offers year-round interest. It provides a bit of deep green color on gloomy winter days and the fiddleheads, or crosiers, provide interest in spring as they begin to unfurl against the previous year’s leaves. Its common name is a reference to how early settlers used the evergreen fronds for Christmas decorations, but some believe it may also be because of its Christmas stocking shaped leaves.
The 12 to 18 inch tall fern is fairly adaptable, growing in full shade to part sun and in rich, moist soils to dry, rocky slopes. It is great for shady woodland gardens and massing along rocky slopes to discourage soil erosion. Christmas fern does not suffer from any serious insect or disease problems.
Tiarella is a spectacular native plant that gets its common name from the white, foamy-looking flowers. It is an easily grown perennial that can be used as a ground cover in somewhat shaded areas.
This hardy plant has something to offer all year round. In late April it exhibits dense, white, feathery spires that give it a lace-like appearance. The handsome “maple-leaf” foliage is attractive all summer long, sometimes turning red in autumn. Depending on the variety, the summer foliage can vary from solid, deep green to variegated with dark red markings. There are also different varieties selected for their growth habit with some being “runners” and others being “clumpers.” Foam flower is perfect for mixing with lower-growing woodland flowers in moist soil.
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