Three Neat Plants – Early May

Syneilesis from top April 30 08

I’ve been trying to think of a topic that would give me a good reason to talk about some of my favorite plants from time to time. A few plants that have recently caught my eye don’t have much in common, however, besides being perennials and having interesting foliage. “Three Neat Plants” is the best theme I can come up with, for the moment anyway. Fortunately, the plants are far more exciting than the title.

Syneilesis April 20 and 30 08

Syneilesis June 25 07My first favorite goes by the great common name of shredded umbrella plant. Known botanically as Syneilesis aconitifolia, it looks very much like some sort of May apple (Podophyllum), but it’s actually in the aster family. The emerging leaves (shown at left above) appear much like furry silver mushrooms, then open to reveal their umbrella-like form (shown above right) in May. In leaf, they’re generally 12 to 15 inches tall. Gradually, they lose their fuzzy silverness, and they send up flowering stems typically 24 to 30 inches tall, topped with not-very-interesting pinkish white blooms (shown right). I keep finding references to this being a woodland plant, but mine didn’t thrive until I gave it a somewhat drier and much sunnier site (basically full sun from 6 am until about 2 pm through most of the summer). You can acquire shredded umbrella plant from Plant Delights Nursery.

Hosta Mostly Ghostly May 1 08

Hosta Mostly Ghostly with Iris pallida Aureovariegata June 8 06Here’s another neat plant that does seem to need a bit more shade: ‘Mostly Ghostly’ hosta. I normally don’t get very excited about hostas, but I saw this one in a nursery pot and knew I had to have it. The emerging leaves are a bright ivory white and stay that way for several weeks. In the photo above, you can see that they’re starting to green up a little early this spring, probably due to the spell of unusually warm weather we had in April. By June (shown at right), and for most of the rest of the growing season, it’s more appropriately known as “Mostly Ugly”: a streaky to speckly mix of light and medium greens that’s pretty icky and best ignored. But oh, those new leaves are just too amazing to miss. You can find ‘Mostly Ghostly’ through a few on-line sources, including Mason Hollow Nursery.

Iris Gerald Darby May 1 08

And one more perennial I think is really neat: ‘Gerald Darby’ iris (Iris x robusta). Its new leaves are deep purple, gradually turning green at the tips (as shown above) but holding some purple at the base through most of the spring. By bloom time in June, the purple is mostly gone from the foliage, but it’s visible in the flowering stems (shown below). The blooms themselves aren’t spectacular – a rather ordinary purple. The plant forms a very sturdy, dense clump to about 3 feet in leaf. Mine thrives in all-day sun with average garden soil, but due to its parentage (it’s a cross between I. virginica and I. versicolor), it thrives in moist to wet sites quite well. One source for ‘Gerald Darby’ is Park Seed.

Iris Gerald Darby with Phlomis tuberosa June 25 06

    

13 responses to this post.

  1. These are very interesting plants indeed. I like the Umbrella plant it has such interesting foliage and nice tall flowers to go with you. You always have the most unique plants. I never find anything really unique locally. Too bad shipping over the net makes things so very expensive.

    Yes, shipping can be expensive, but it can be worth it for special plants. An even better option is to sharpen your seed-starting skills. You can get a lot of great plants that way!
    -Nan

  2. Since I have so much shade I like hostas. I do want them to have some interest other than green leaves and this Mostly Ghostly fills the bill. I will watch for one to appear in our neck of th ewoods and snap it up. The umbrella plant sounds interesting too.

    You have some intresting plants here. I like the purple leaved iris too.

    ‘Mostly Ghostly’ *is* an interesting addition to a collection, I think, and I’m sure you’d enjoy having it. One tip: Small starter plants can be a little slow to settle in, because they have so little chlorophyll, at least at the beginning of the season. Mine took several years to develop more than one crown, and it’s still pretty small for being almost eight years old. The shredded umbrellas might do well in your conditions, too, and it’s been a good increaser for me.
    -Nan

  3. Posted by ourfriendben on May 5, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    These are priceless, Nan! Maybe you should devote a post to plants with really cool names–shredded umbrella plant and ‘Mostly Ghostly’ would both qualify! I would definitely have thought the shredded umbrella plant was a mayapple. Tricked again! But of course the one I’m really lusting after is ‘Gerald Darby’. Wow!!!

    Trust you to see a better unifying theme. I could swear that I saw one reference use “poison flag” as a common name for the iris, and that’s a pretty cool common name too! (It seems that the rhizomes have some sort of toxic property, and the reference recommended wearing gloves when dividing the clumps. I wish I’d known that when I divided it last year, but I survived anyway.)
    -Nan

  4. You always have the most unusual things, especially unusual foliage. The Mostly Ghostly looks very like White Feather. I wonder if they changed the name, since it greens up as the season progresses. Do you know? The shredded umbrella is interesting and the tall flowers add some movement if not great color. So many great plants, so little space left in the garden!

    I did a little research, and it seems that there are quite a few hostas that come up white and change to greenish as the season progresses. Apparently ‘White Feather’ and ‘Mostly Ghostly’ are both sports of ‘Undulata Albomarginata’. They look pretty much identical to me, going by the pictures. I’d guess that you only need one, but I’m sure hosta addicts would disagree.
    -Nan

  5. I love the interesting leaves of those plants! They’d add so much interest to the garden even when the flowers aren’t in bloom. What bang for your buck!

    Thanks for stopping by, Cinj. Yep, those leaves are definitely an added bonus! Or I *should* say that the flowers are a bonus with the great foliage.
    -Nan

  6. These are great-and I would have thought that Shredded umbrella would have been related to Podophyllum, too! I love it. Makes me want to see my Mayapples, though because I need to move some of them. Along with seven gazillion other tasks.

    Yikes, you’re still that far behind us spring-wise, huh? I keep forgetting. I imagine your May apples will be up any day now. They sure grow quickly once they finally poke their noses out of the soil. (So, what, they’re like June apples for you then, I guess!)
    -Nan

  7. Posted by Sylvia (England) on May 6, 2008 at 10:12 am

    I like the Syneilesis aconitifolia I really must put it on my wish list (rather a long list!). I have ordered your book on foliage and really looking forward to reading it when it arrives.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

    Hi Sylvia! How exciting that you were able to find the foliage book; I hope you enjoy it. I hope you can find the Syneilesis as well. (S. palmata is good too, if you can’t get S. aconitifolia).
    -Nan

  8. I really like that Shredded Umbrella plant. I can see that its leaves do somewhat resemble a Monkshood that’s been pressed & stretched. I don’t think I like that Ghostly Hosta though. Plants have to earn their keep through more than one season in my garden.

    Yes, that hosta is definitely an oddity, not a plant to build a garden around. I have so little shade that I figured if I’m going to have a hosta, it might as well be a weird one. It really is pretty dreadful in summer and fall, though.
    -Nan

  9. Nan:

    As soon as I find my catalog in the rubble on my desk I will be marking these plants. Love the Shredded Umbrella plant and the iris might be a contender for my future ‘Kevorkian’ Garden. Keep’em coming! My Plant Delights order was shipped yesterday! It has been so long since I placed it all will be a surprise when it gets here.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Layanee. When your PD order arrives, don’t forget to tell all of us what you ordered!
    -Nan

  10. Very Neat! I remember growing up in Greensburg Pa and we had umbrella plants growing in the woods out back. They were everywhere under the canopy of trees. That’s a pretty cool hosta. I’ll have to that to the list for my corner shade garden.

    Hey, I don’t think I knew that you were originally from PA. You’ve certainly adapted well to the warmer climate. And yep, knowing your taste in plants, I’m not surprised that these oddities appeal to you.
    -Nan

  11. Hi Nan!
    I must looked after your Podophyllum on my lokal nurserys, they are so beautyful.
    I like al your plants you show.
    Have a nice weekend Ken

    Thanks for checking in, Ken! I’m glad you found the weird plants of interest. There are many more to come!
    -Nan

  12. Nan .. there are so many interesting plants that are eye catching because of their foliage .. I am having a long love affair with Jack Frost Brunnera (I think everyone knows by now ? LOL) ..
    I am an absolute fool for any plants which names have anything to do with quirkiness .. Halloween in fact .. I am a Halloween freak so this hosta caught my attention by name right away.
    They are all such great out of the ordinary plants !
    Thanks for all this information : )
    Joy

    Gee, yes, Joy, I think you may have mentioned your fondness for ‘Jack Frost’ a few (dozen) times – but with good reason, for sure! ‘Mostly Ghostly’ certainly would be appropriate for a Halloween garden name-wise, although by late October, it’s ugly enough that you’d probably want to drive a stake through it. Or maybe just bury it in a shallow grave. If the frost hasn’t already killed it off by then, of course. It’s so darn neat in the spring, though…
    -Nan

  13. Ah, the aconitifolia looks even better than my palmata. Maybe just because I don’t have it yet :-). Syneilesis are easy enough to get started, but in my experience they set mostly duds.

    Well, you’d know, avid seed-starter that you are. I wonder if having two seedlings (for cross-pollination) would increase the chance of getting viable seed. Hmmm…might be worth a try….
    -Nan

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