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by Pernell Gerver

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"Go Native! Growing Spring's Woodland Wildflowers"

Every spring there are so many beautiful woodland wildflowers to look forward to and if you've ever taken a walk in the woods you've probably come across some of the many beautiful wildflowers native to the Northeast. If you're not fortunate enough to have your own wooded area with wildflowers it's possible to plant a woodland wildflower garden using nursery-propagated, non-wild-collected wildflowers. If you have shady locations or a woodland there are many different wildflowers you can plant and grow quite easily. I've planted my own woodland wildflower garden from nursery-propagated plants and there is always something in bloom throughout spring.

Hepatica is one of the first wildflowers to bloom in very early spring. It's a diminutive plant, only growing four to six inches tall. In spring, flower stems rise from the center of the foliage bearing single half-inch white, pink, or blue flowers.

Dutchman's breeches is a small, mound-forming plant that grows six to 10 inches tall. It has finely-divided, fern-like leaves and is one of the earliest-blooming wildflowers. Its foliage is topped with short flower stems in early spring. The flower stems carry a row of white flowers that resemble upside-down pantaloons.

Fringed bleeding heart is one of the longest-blooming wildflowers. Blooms appear as early as early April and continue right to frost. It has medium-green, fern-like foliage. Foot-tall flower stems carry clusters of rose-pink, red, or white heart-shaped flowers. Unlike the common bleeding heart, fringed bleeding heart does not die back to the ground after blooming. It spreads to form a clump a foot wide or more. While it's at home in the woodland wildflower garden, it is very adaptable and thrives in a variety of conditions from full sun to deep shade.

Yellow lady's slipper orchid is one of the showiest woodland orchids. Most orchids in the world grow in the air on trees, but lady's slipper orchids are terrestrial, meaning they grow in the ground. The term lady's slipper refers to the shape of its flower. Its lower petal is pouch-shaped and resembles a slipper. Yellow lady's slipper has three thin upper petals that are slightly curled. The slipper portion of the flower is bright golden yellow and the upper petals are light brown. It bears a single flower stalk that can have up to three flowers on it. Yellow lady's slipper orchid is very hardy, easy to grow, and it's available as nursery-propagated plants.

Red trillium, also called stinking Benjamin, is perhaps the most common trillium that can be found growing wild in woodlands. It bears deep-red flowers atop a set of three leaves. As its common name implies, the flowers are not exactly fragrant. In fact, they have an odor similar to rotting meat, but the "fragrance" is only noticeable at close range. It grows from six to 20 inches tall and forms a wide clump.

Great white trillium is a clump-forming trillium with up to eight flower stems rising from one rhizome. A mature plant bears dozens of flowers. It's a vigorous wildflower and is great for mass planting. This trillium bears some of the largest flowers of all trilliums. Long-lasting, snow-white flowers three to six inches wide appear in late spring. Each flower is composed of three pointed petals held above a set of three pointed leaves. The flowers fade to pink then rose as they wither. It's a great woodland plant that really brightens up a shady spot. It grows eight to 16 inches tall and spreads to form a large clump.

Dwarf shooting star forms a low rosette of medium-green leaves. A single flower stalk appears in spring bearing up to a dozen attractive flowers. The petals of the raspberry-red flowers flare backward, revealing a black pointed anther.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Moving? Take prized plants with you"

Q. We are in the process of moving to a new home, possibly in late June. We want to take our favorite roses and hydrangeas and some of our other plants and flowers. We also have a small weeping cherry we want to take. Are we going to harm them by moving them at this time of year? Any suggestions? Please help. Thank you very much!

A. I don't blame you for wanting to take your prized plants with you to your new home.

My advice to you would be to dig up as much as you can as soon as possible before the really warm weather arrives. I would start with the trees, shrubs, and roses first because the best time for transplanting them is while they are still dormant. You are lucky this year because of the late spring plants are leafing out later than normal so you have some time if you act quickly.

The smaller plants like perennials could be dug up last, but try to get to them as soon as you can, also. If you can't transplant them to your new garden right away you could put them into pots temporarily.

For all of the plants you will be moving I recommend watering them well a few days before you dig them up and you should also spray the plants with antidesiccant after watering. The antidesiccant will lessen the transplant shock.

For the larger plants like the trees and shrubs you will need to "ball and burlap" them. The way to do that is to slice into the soil with a spade in a circle a couple of feet around the stem. You are not trying to dig up the plant, but actually are going to excavate soil away from the root ball. Dig soil away from outside of the circle until you have the root ball totally exposed in the "crater" you excavated.

Next, wrap the root ball in a large square of burlap. You will need to pull the burlap underneath the root ball and gather it up at the top of the root ball. To hold the burlap and root ball together, criss-cross twine over the burlap and tie it together at the top of the root ball. Now you will be able to remove the plant from the hole.

Make sure to keep the root balls of the plants moist until you transplant them and water regularly throughout the season after you get them planted in their new home.

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