Ferns and ephemerals

shooting star

Hello. I’d like you to meet Shooting Star, aka Dodecatheon hendersonii. This sweet little thing is one of the native wildflowers blooming in my backyard “woodland bed” right now. Like many of the spring ephemerals (so called because of their fleeting nature), it’s not exactly a show-stopper (but just look at how it wows en masse!). Since there’s just one clump in my garden, it’s best appreciated up close. Luckily, I don’t have much choice but to get close – our backyard is that small.


At 13′ x 15′, our backyard offers, let’s say, the opportunity to get up close and personal with each and every plant in it. Here it is, seen from the third floor balcony. The woodland bed is the one in the bottom right corner of the above photo.

woodland garden

And here it is earlier this month, as everything started to spring to life. Acer palmatum ‘Beni Kawa’ anchors this bed. When I planted it three years ago, I called it “the perfect small space alternative to ‘Sangu Kaku’.” I lied. Sure, it’s smaller than ‘Sangu Kaku,” which can reach 20’ tall, but it isn’t a tiny tree. In our household, it’s generally referred to as “out of control,” or “that &%* tree” as one of it’s ridiculously long branches insinuates itself into your personal space.

japanese maple

…but it does have lovely red new growth, and when they unfurl, the delicate-looking leaves look like hands spreading.


There’s also a big, beautiful Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum), which unwinds its fiddleheads in the most lovely way.

fiddlehead sword fern

Here’s one of its tightly-curled fiddleheads, which, although apparently very tasty, I can’t bring myself to harvest.

folded fern

I love the pre-emergent leaves of the Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum). Look at how those individual leaves are knit together like fish scales – so perfect.

trout lily

This is a BC-native yellow fawn lily (erythronium; aka trout lily or dog’s-tooth violet). I believe this one is Erythronium grandiflorum but I can’t quite remember I’ve moved the bulbs from house to house as I moved over the years. They look delicate but naturalize well.

vanilla leaf

Vanilla leaf (Achlys triphylla) is a deciduous perennial that provides wonderful ground-level texture. It has bottle-brush flowers and smells faintly like vanilla.
There’s also evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum), which produces small, sweet-tart berries in late summer; soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum), which has bronze-tinged fronds; snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus), which is a childhood favourite of mine; and bouquet staple salal (Gaultheria shallon).
I love this little bed. It’s a mini version of the forests that bordered our house and that I loved to play in when I was growing up. I guess that’s why I’ve packed so many of my favourite plants…they all have meaning, and together evoke potent memories.

<< Previous Post | Next Post >>