Entries in plants for woodland garden (6)


Changes to the Woodland Garden: A New Sitting Area!

I have been busy in the woodland garden the last few weeks, work that involved a lot of muscle and a bobcat. I have long wanted to add a sitting area adjacent to the fern glade, and now it is done! It is not a large area, just big enough for two small chairs. The metal chairs are quite heavy and surprisingly comfortable, and the new area creates some badly needed structure in the space.

First, here is a before photo of the area.

This is what one now sees from the same spot. The sitting area is tucked to the right side of a large rock, which marks the entry to the sitting area and the path overlooking the fern glade. There is only a hint of the new space from this angle.

A trail leads from the main woodland path toward the fern glade and the new sitting area.

Here it is!

Did you notice the frog?

Plantings around the sitting area include native Phlox divaricata, Hosta Aureomarginata, Gumbo Azalea, Heucherella 'Yellowstone Falls', and some colorful Coleus. There is an old magazine rack, put to use holding potted New Guinea Impatiens.

I turned this rock on its end to create a more defined entry to the round space. Lou thinks it looks like a tombstone!

My fern glade has, at last count, 87 ferns, added over the past few years. Many are deciduous and are just now emerging from dormancy, so they are not very visible in these images. The concrete bench overlooks the glade. The fern glade is a large semicircular area, and I still need to add more ferns. I will have to publish another post on the fern glade when all of them are up and growing. 

At the opposite end of the fern glade from the sitting area is a group of evergreen Autumn Fern:

There is a small 'Butterfly' Japanese maple in the pot, and there are also several fragrant native azaleas in the area.

From the sitting area one also has a view of the new woodland path that started it all, back in 2010. Since I published that post, I have eliminated most of the mahonia and nandina in the woodland garden. Both proved to be horribly invasive, and I still pull seedlings every year.This project is a good illustration of the snowball effect! You may also enjoy reading my post Planting a Fern Glade, published in 2012, to get a perspective on progress in this part of the woodland garden, as well as My Decision, in which I write about eliminating the mahonia and nandina. I enjoyed going back and reading these old posts, then looking at what my woodland garden has become. 




Crane-fly Orchid in the Woodlands

For years I have noticed some distinctive corrugated leaves which push up in the woodlands in the fall and persist through the winter and into spring, then vanishing by summer. The leaves are blue-green on top and a rich wine color underneath:These lovely Crane-fly Orchid leaves are growing in the Woodland Garden.It's a wild plant, but definitely not weedy. I had no idea what it was; even after searching through garden books I could not find anything like it.

Then yesterday while browsing the internet (Do you remember the world before the internet?) I came across a photo of my wildflower, and I finally had an identification: Tiliparia discolor, also known as Crippled Crane-fly or Crane-fly orchid. 

I have orchids growing in my woodlands!

You may have some type of native orchid growing near you, too. The orchid family is huge, with almost thirty-thousand naturally occurring species of orchids growing worldwide. There are also over a hundred thousand man-made orchid species! The family is extremely diverse. Orchids may be tiny wildflowers, or they may be showy prize-winners grown in hot houses, but they all have a couple of things in common. First, they all have three sepals that form the calyx of the flower. The calyx is the protective layer around the flower in bud. When one looks at a flower bud, one is looking at the calyx. All orchids also have three flower petals. One of the petals is dramatically different from the other two and is called the lip. The lip is the most attractive part of the plant. It draws in pollinators, pointing the way to the central reproductive organ, called the column, which contains both male and female parts.

The Crane-fly orchid is a native plant to the eastern half of the United States, growing from Texas to New York and Massachusetts, hardiness zones 4-10. It grows in the woodland setting and requires mychorrhizal fungus to grow along its roots to survive. The symbiotic relationship is interesting. The fungus gains carbohydrates from the orchid's roots, while the orchid draws water and mineral nutrients from the fungi. This is especially helpful in poor, shallow soils of dry woodlands. In some areas it is a rare or endangered species. Each Crane-fly orchid has a single leaf, which can be either smooth or corrugated, and they tend to grow in clumps. After the leaf dies back in summer, the orchid sends up a single purple stem about one to two feet tall. Each stem has a couple dozen greenish-purple, translucent flowers.This is a public domain photo of a Crane-fly orchid. I hope to make photos of my own this summer!The thin stems and small flowers are easy to miss in the woodland setting, but I think I have seen these! I did not know what I was looking at and did not associate them with the pretty leaves that had disappeared in early summer. Night flying moths don't overlook these flowers, however. They are drawn to the pale flowers and the sweet nectar and are the primary pollinators of this native plant.

Now I am looking forward to the hot, muggy days of late summer, when I will be outside, searching for Crane-fly orchid flowers.