Thursday, June 21, 2012

Maianthemum Oleraceum

Maianthemum oleraceum flower closeup

Maianthemum oleraceum flower with foliage

     As I said in my earlier post on Nomocharis, I would be telling you about some of the plants I got at Far Reaches Farm recently.  Today, I am going to focus on one of those plants, Maianthemum oleraceum.  This is a cousin to our native false solomon seal-- what used to be known as Smilacina racemosa, but is now called Maianthemum racemosa.  I have had this native in my garden for a long time.  It is virtually indestructible, but I am not greatly enamored of it because it has white and not very showy flowers.  As I said yesterday, I don't really care for white flowers. And I think the plant looks weedy.
     So, until I saw this maianthemum growing in the shade house at Far Reaches, when some one said "False Solomon's Seal" to me I said "meh".  This one had me at purple flowers.   So imagine a false solomon's seal on steroids--the plant at Far Reaches is big, maybe 4 feet tall and wider than that, and hanging off it a various intervals are these gorgeous flowers.  Of course, I had to have it and Hurray! they had it available.  Kelly, however, tells me that they have very few for sale now, but have lots of little seedlings coming on.  So now a litlle baby Maianthemum oleraceum lives in my garden.
     I planted this in a spot by my circular wall near a clump of Fargesia robusta. I gave it a lot of room to grow because this will eventually get large, although Kelly says that it is slow to do so.   I do not expect it to be particularly finicky, since its cousin is such an easy plant.  It is supposed to be a shade plant, although I also expect that the edges of woodland would suit it better than deep dark shade.
     When I looked this plant up on the internet, I mostly found pictures of white flowers.  Apparently, this species, which is found in Sikkim down through Tibet and China nearly to Vietnam, has a flower color range from white to deep purplish red.   Wouldn't a deep purplish red one also be fabulous?
     This is a plant that is very rare in commerce now.  I looked it up on the RHS Plant Finder and the purple flowered form is not listed this year.  For those who don't know, the RHS Plantfinder is a list of the plants available for sale in the UK and the nurseries where they can be found. If a plant is not listed there, or only listed in a few places, you can be sure it is rare.  The listings in the plantfinder are good evidence of why the UK is considered a horticultural mecca.