Posted by: gardenshf | April 23, 2012

Now Growing: Tellima grandiflora

After a week of late spring storms with every type of cloud sailing through the gardens, a steel-blue sky and sunshine finally emerged.

While walking the Gardens at Heather Farm and breathing in the cool, crisp morning air, I could see every leaf and blade of grass was shimmering. Who could help but feel rejuvenated? The spring garden is fully emerged.

The usual suspects in the garden dazzle visitors with their bounty of pastel blooms. I like to look for the shy flowers — those that live low to the ground and often go unnoticed, beautiful but not screaming for attention.

Such a flower is the lovely woodland native Tellima grandiflora, which grows in the Stroll Garden among the primroses, coral

Tellima grandiflora — also known as Fringe cups — is a member of the Saxifrage or Saxifragaceae family that also includes Heucheras (coral bells). The name Saxifrage means breaker of rocks, and dates back to Dioscorides, the Greek herbalist of the first century.

Many Saxifrages actually grow in wet meadows, not on rocks. The species that grew in rocks were either undiscovered or mainly known as stonecrops until Linnaeus circumscribed the modern genus Saxifraga in 1737.

The meadow plant became known as a stone breaker not because it could crack rocks in the field, but because it was believed to break up another type of stone.

In herbalism, the ancient “doctrine of signatures” held that the shape of the plant was a suggestion from God for how the plants should be used in medicine. So Saxifrages, with its kidney-shaped leaves and small grainlike bulbils at the base of its stem, were thought to cure kidney stones.

Tellima’s citron-green cupped flowers rise above hairy, maple-leaf shaped foliage to about 18 inches to 2 feet. As the flowers age, the outer fringes of the flowers begin to turn a pale pink.

The hairy leaves indicate its hardiness to dry conditions as well as being unappealing to snails and slugs. If given the right conditions, allowing it to grow among leaf debris, it will reseed.

Like coral bells, Tellima’s clumps will spread by creeping rootstock that can be divided and transplanted after flowering. Or let it reseed by leaving flowers on until the seed has naturally dispersed. Seed also can be collected and easily started in the late summer. Allow to grow outdoors during the winter months.

Tellima grandiflora, which does not have any pests, is a great perennial for naturalizing under deciduous trees.

While many of the Heucheras in the garden are being eaten by deer, they do not seem to be eating the Tellima.

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