Underused plant?

I have been growing a plant called Gillenia trifoliata for quite a few years and love it. I wondered why I didn’t see it in other people’s gardens as well. It is a native plant that emerges early in spring and then by June has sweet white star-shaped flowers on red stems.

Then I discovered that there are two forms of Gillenia. I now have both. There is Gillenia  trifoliata and  Gillenia stipulata.  G.stipulata also emerges early in the garden, but with wonderful rusty red fern-like foliage. I am enamored with it and watch its progress daily! My plant’s new growth is almost yellow now, while at the base the foliage is a darker green. The plant reaches about 3 feet in height and mine needs staking by the time the heat of summer arrives. The blooms come later than the simpler leaved variety.

new growth on Gillenia stipulata

Gillenia’s red stems and darker foliage near its base

Almost like a peony this Gillenia needed staking after a heavy rain.

Earlier this week while visiting the Toronto Botanical Gardens, where Piet Oudolf designed the entryway gardens, I was greeted by masses of Gillenia trifoliata in the parking lot. Then, closer to the doorway, even more mass plantings of this lovely plant appeared. I can no longer say it is underused.

I was certainly astonished and impressed by its clever use. It seems it took a Dutchman to make us see the beauty of our own native plant.

PS: Hurray! I see that Gillenia stipulata is featured by Nancy J. Ondra  on Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – June 2012

UPDATE: June 23rd. G.stipulata begins to bloom now! That’s a good 2 weeks later that G.trifoliata.


About fromourisland

Gardener, knitter, wife, mother of 2, grandmother, and lots more.
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8 Responses to Underused plant?

  1. I.m a sucker for red stems ‘bug, but I bet my climate is not friendly to this plant . Will do some research !

  2. I have some G. trifoliata planted in my fathers garden in NJ. The last time I visited it was still there but outside of botanical gardens I don’t think I have ever seen it for sale (I mail ordered mine). It is fairly common in English gardens. I saw it in several on my trip last year.

    I’ve never seen G. stipulata. Looks beautiful but alas east coast woodland plants are not the sort of thing I should be growing here in California. At least I can grow Gaura which is sort of similar.

  3. Sue says:

    I just saw this for sale in a nursery this week. Not sure which Gillenia it was but I’m definitely going back to take a look.

  4. tezalizard says:

    I will have to walk the display gardens at you know where and see if indeed he has it! Otherwise, I would swap anything I have for a division of this next year?!?

  5. Marie, I just planted two Gillenia trifoliata and now you’ve made me want the G. stipulata — because anything with a red tinge is welcome in my garden. What a pleasant surprise to see Teza among your commenters! I guess the garden world is smaller than small.

  6. Sue says:

    I keep forgetting to tell you, I purchased a Gillenia trifoliata a few weeks ago. Without your glowing recommendation I never would have considered it.

  7. How fun! Now you’ll have to hunt down G.stipulata too!

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