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.
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.