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Yes, I had to go to the UK to be enlightened about a plant that grew in my own backyard. In my defense, I was so much younger then and much less enlightened. But here's the short of it. In 1992, my friend Dan Heims and I spent two solid weeks travelling around the UK visiting gardens, plant collections and friends. It was a plantsman's dream trip starting off with two nights as the guests of Agatha Christie's daughter, a day with Beth Chatto, a day with Elizabeth Strangman and many other legends of British gardening and culminating with a full day, sun up to sun down, of Dan and I strolling around Wisley with Graham Stuart Thomas just the three of us. (I'd use a few exclamation points here, but I've been told that I use too many!)
It was on that trip to England, a gardener's Nirvana, that a chance drive through the Devon countryside on the way to visit yet another NCCPG collection brought us by a lovely cottage garden. There was a border along the front of the property of what I first thought was some rare Hydrangea species. Now, in the UK, it's not uncommon for fellow gardeners to stop at a stranger's garden and strike up a conversation, so I wasn't surprised when Dan slammed on the brakes again and backed up into yet another person's driveway. The woman was delighted to have a couple of fellow plant geeks from across the pond admire her plantings and welcomed us into her home and garden. She laughed heartily when I explained to her what initially caught my attention.
Before I could query her as to what the magnificent planting was, she said "That's one of yours."
"What do you mean ?" I asked.
"That's your "False Solomons Seal", Smilacina racemosa," she replied.
To avoid further embarrassment on my part for not knowing, I quickly complimented her on her exquisite choice of plant material. So, there you have it! Here was a plant that I'd encountered in the woods behind my home on many occasions and knew quite well, but never realized that if you give it a home in a garden, free from competition with tree roots, weeds, rocks etc and a little TLC, it performs tenfold!!!
Now, about the name of this plant, which by the way is native to every state in the US and all of Canada. Here's where it gets kinda sticky. As a child, I always knew this plant as "False Solomons Seal". As I grew up and started speaking Latin, it became Smilacina racemosa to me. The "True Solomon's Seal" being any one of a number of species in the genus Polygonatum. Now, I come to find that not only have the taxonomists changed the name to Maianthemum racemosum but, I've even heard rumors that it was being moved from the Liliaceae family to the Convallariaceae family.
Nevertheless, and with due respect to all the name changes etc, this long lived, easy to grow, almost shrublike in appearance perennial plant will bring you, your friends and your visitors decades of pleasure in your garden. It typically grows in average soil in all types of light conditions from deep shade to filtered sunlight. The deep green, glossy, arching foliage is persistent all the growing season long and the attractive, long lasting, elegant feathery, creamy white blooms light up the whole garden in early to mid Spring. Average height is 12" - 18", but I've seen mature, well fed plantings attain heights of almost 60".
And if that weren't enough, it's fragrant! And wait till you see the berries it produces in Autumn!!!
Propagation is also quite easy as it forms a new bud along the rhizome every year and can even be easily grown from seed, although it takes several years to reach flowering size from seedlings. As far as the deer and other critters go, they may occasionally take a nip at it, but it's not on their delicacy list and they pretty much ignore it. There seems to be no insect, pest or disease problems. In fact, I've never even observed an aphid on it.
I usually only include one image in my email blasts whilst trying to entice you into trying a new plant, but my friend Ian Cooke sent me four and I couldn't decide which one I like best. Since they're great images I've decided to share them all with you. Also, THANKS to Jeff Abbas for the great closeup of the flowers. My own images paled in comparison.
I've a good bit of Smilacina racemosa or to be taxonomically correct, Maianthemum racemosum, to share with you now. What you'll receive are bed grown, bareroot rhizomes with a big, fat, juicy bud at the tip that will burst out of the ground next Spring and reward you with brilliant white flowers and beautiful red berries. They'll be wrapped in long fibered, unmilled sphagnum moss. This material is antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral and a very useful material to recycle.
The prices shown below include FREE SHIPPING!!!
7 for $ 35.00 delivered ($5.00 ea)
Larger quantities at even lower prices upon request.
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Copyright © Barry Glick 1996-2023. All Rights Reserved.
Barry Glick, Sunshine Farm and Gardens
696 Glicks Rd, Renick, WV 24966, USA
Phone: (304) 497-2208
Last modified February 19, 2020