Stand Up For The Little Guys

Posted by & filed under Natural Areas, Perennials.

Crabapple and cherry in Flowering ArboretumI don’t know if today’s April shower will bring May flowers, but the April flowers are certainly here.  The Garden is exploding with color everywhere.  On nice days, like this past weekend, lots of people have decided to come enjoy the floral show.  

As you may know, I’ve been in the arboretum.  In the last week, the crabapples, redbuds and virburnums have joined the cherries and magnolias in bloom.  The red buckeyes are just starting to show some color as well.  Because of the all the people coming here, I am starting to rethink my opinion that it is an advantage to have them distracted by the overhead display.  I certainly evade detection, but after getting stepped on about the 50th time on Saturday, it was time to move.  I’ve been on the move since and have noticed that everyone is enthralled by the big showy displays throughout the Garden.  However, there are some really fantastic little gems that are getting overlooked and it’s time to stand up for the little guys like me.

Here are just a few examples:
In the Sensory Garden, most people are dazzled by the pansies and tulips out along the sidewalk and the fragrant viburnum grabs everyone’s attention.  But what about the dainty little spring starflowers in the back by the winter honeysuckle?  They are nice little pale blue flowers that are a wonderful herald of spring.  Only by joining together to form a sizable clump do people even notice them.

Epimedium grandiflorumNear cobblestone bridge is a beautiful crabapple covered in white flowers.  How many people bother to walk over to the tree to see the dainty little hoop petticoat daffodils blooming underneath?  The small flower looks like a miniscule megaphone, trying to call attention to anyone passing by.  Just up the path in the Winter Garden, some grape hyacinths can’t even get that much attention.

Across the canal, at Baker Overlook, is a beautiful sweep of barrenwort (or epimedium).  Everyone looks at the saucer magnolia overhead and right past these modest little flowers who keep their heads down.  Don’t get fooled by their shy nature, they are rugged little plants that gradually spread to form an Cinnamon Fern fiddleheadeffective groundcover.  The plantings around the lower deck are a good example of their abilities.  But you do have to look down to appreciate them.

Just up the road is the big, colorful display of tulips that everyone stops to photograph.  But who takes the time to walk in the little shaded wood right behind them to admire the beautiful fiddle heads of the emerging cinnamon fern?  Their graceful lines are a sight not to miss.  Unfortunately many do.

But probably some of the most underappreciated spring flowers are found in the Native Plant Garden.  Just off the boardwalk, near the south entrance is a small clump of dwarf wakerobin.  This Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides)rare native trillium is a beautiful little flower with three narrow leaves and pale blossoms just inches above the forest floor.  Very easy to miss.  Mixed in with them is some rue anemone.  These plants sport dainty little leaves with some bright white flowers.  On a side note, just like dogwoods, they don’t have petals – the white flowers really are their sepals.  The dogwoods get all the glory while these little guys just get overlooked.

So for all of you who plan to come to see our gorgeous spring Garden, I issue you a challenge.  Think of it as a giant scavenger hunt or an outdoor “Where’s Waldo.”  Can you find all the plants I just mentioned amongst all the dazzling azaleas, cherries, crabapples and other flowers?  Bet you can’t.